New Study Says Owning a Dog May Improve Heart Health

According to a new study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings: Innovations, Quality & Outcomes, having dogs by our side may make our hearts as healthy as they make them full.

Those of us with dogs running around our lives and homes know the benefits of pet ownership. The unconditional love, trust and loyalty shown to us by our canine companions, coupled with their displays of unbridled enthusiasm on our return home each day (and sometimes just from another room), are hard to put into words. Even if we have to suffer some chewed up furniture, shoes, pillows and remote controls (don't ask) to get there.

But as we go through life with our four-legged family members, there's another benefit of having them by our side that was (good) news to us: They may make our hearts as healthy as they make them full. According to a new study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings: Innovations, Quality & Outcomes (and covered by The New York Times and a plethora of other media outlets), "owning a dog may be good for your cardiovascular health."

How so? Well, in addition to the joy of having them around, dogs force us to get up and move. "Dog owners were more likely to report sufficient physical activity, a better diet and good glucose levels" than the rest of the study’s “randomly selected group of 1,769 residents of Brno, in the Czech Republic," The New York Times reports.

Mayo Clinic cardiologist Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, M.D., the study's senior author, tells ABC News it should come as little surprise that dog ownership and heart health go hand-in-hand. "It's very difficult not to increase the level of activity after you get a pet, in particular, a dog … they move around. They force us to be active," Dr. Lopez-Jimenez says. "Dog-ownership increases the well-being of an individual. It helps improve people's physical activity, mood, social life and diet."

All benefits that Dr. Lopez-Jimenez knows firsthand. "I have a German shorthair retriever named Choco," he tells our Mayo Clinic News Network friends. "He will be nagging me until we go out — maybe for a short walk, maybe throwing him balls. But what I realize is that anything that I do with my dog will imply physical activity."

That's not all. "Studies have shown owning a dog actually increases social life. People are more likely to talk to others who have dogs," Dr. Lopez-Jimenez tells ABC News. "This study builds on other evidence that shows dog-owners are less likely to be depressed ... The heart findings just add that owning a dog may bring a lot of wellness. Most dog owners will say, 'Wow, I knew there was something.' Some won't be surprised."

You can draw your own conclusions by reading more about the study here, here, here, here, here and here. Then go ahead and throw us a bone by sharing your comments below before using the social media tools atop this page to share this story with all your canine-loving friends.