Surprising ways your dog is keeping you healthy

Believe it or not, some of the dirt you dog tracks into the house can help boost your immune system. (Photo Credit: Shutterstock)

Your pup may not be the shining beacon of all that is a healthy lifestyle: he eats leftovers, spends a majority of his day on the couch, and seems to enjoy all of the TV that you do. But owning a dog has a surprising number of health benefits. If you have been on the fence about getting your own dog, consider the facts:

1. Exercise

This is probably the most obvious, but having a dog is a great way to get yourself outside and your legs moving. According to a study by the University of Victoria in Canada, dog owners are more likely to spend time in mild and moderate physical activities. Dog owners walked an average of 300 minutes per week compared to non-dog owners, who only averaged 168 minutes a week.

2. They boost your mood

It’s not rocket science: playing with a puppy is one of the most fun things in the world. It’s an instant mood booster, and there is science to back it up. According to a study by the University of Missouri-Columbia, even a few minutes of petting a pup releases a myriad of feel-good hormones into system, including serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin. Talk about a natural anti-depressant…

3. They keep your blood pressure down

Who knew that simply owning a dog could correspond with having lower blood pressure? Recent research on human-dog interactions showed that talking to and petting a dog are accompanied by lower blood pressure. Touch seemed to be vital in this correlation, so be sure to pet your dog a lot.

4. Dogs build up your immune system

When you are vacuuming up a fresh batch of dirt your pup dragged in, you may not be too thankful. However, your dog dragging in bacteria and their own dandruff may benefit your immune system. A study followed over 400 children from infancy over a year and found that those who were around dogs were less likely to get sick. We aren’t suggesting you roll around in your dog’s filth like he rolls around in your dirty laundry, but you get the picture.

5. They can sense a drop in blood sugar

You know how your dog can smell your steak dinner before you even decide to start cooking it? Turns out their sense of smell doesn’t just help them detect dinner, it can detect a drop in blood sugar. Chemical changes in your body may make you smell different, and your pup can detect that. While most dogs will be able to detect this change, there are actually programs that train dogs to do just that, which could be a life-changing moment for someone with diabetes.

6. They can also sniff out cancer

While this is not something every dog can do naturally, scientists are training dogs to sniff out isolated cancer chemicals. Researchers hope to manufacture nanotechnology sensors that are capable of recognizing bits of cancerous tissue that are a mere 1/100,00th the thickness of a sheet of paper.

7. They keep you social

Being in top fit form is no use if you are a miserable social recluse. The British Medical Journal has concluded dogs act as “social catalysts.” Owning a dog can help you get out more, approach others with ease, and overall reduce isolation.

Sources: NCBI, NBC News, Can Do Canines, New York Times, The bmj