May 22, 2023; Unhurry Expert Research Team
In This Article
Owning a pet, especially a dog, may help maintain a healthy heart, a recent analysis suggests.
The first analysis of Kariozive Brno 2030 research data looks at the relationship between dog ownership and risk factors for cardiovascular disease and cardiovascular health.
The results are published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings: Innovations, Quality & Outcomes.
The study first established baseline health and socio-economic information on more than 2,000 subjects in the city of Brno, Czech Republic, from January 2013 through Dec. 2014. Follow-up evaluations are scheduled for five-year intervals until 2030.
Health Factors’ Link with pet ownership
In the 2019 evaluation, the study looked at 1,769 subjects with no history of heart disease. The American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple 7 ideal health behaviours and factors—body mass index, diet, physical activity, smoking status, blood pressure, blood glucose, and total cholesterol—were used to evaluate 1,769 subjects without a history of heart disease.
In the study, ratings on cardiovascular health were compared between people who owned pets and people who did not. Then it made comparisons between dog owners, other pet owners, and non-pet owners.
What is animal therapy?
Animal therapy, also called pet therapy or animal-assisted therapy, refers to various services using animals to help people with specific physical or mental health conditions.
People can choose from a variety of animals, such as dogs, horses, and birds, depending on the purpose of the therapy. Animal-assisted therapy is not the only therapeutic option in most cases, but it can be a good choice for some people.
Animal therapy builds on a concept called the human-animal bond, which describes people’s desire to interact with and relate to animals. For many people, by interacting with a friendly animal, they can form a bond with them. This bond can produce a calming state in the person.
This bond itself may help the person in several ways, such as reducing boredom, increasing movement and activity through walks and play, providing companionship, and decreasing loneliness, increasing social interactions, improving mood and general well-being.
The benefits of having positive connections with animals may include decreased stress and a more tranquil, balanced emotional and mental state in general.
Animal therapy partially uses this bond in a directed way to achieve the goals of the therapy.
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How does animal therapy work?
Animal therapy can have several goals, and these will determine how it works. The type of therapy and target for this therapy may change depending on the condition and the type of aid that a person needs.
Some examples include providing comfort and reducing levels of pain, improving movement or motor skills, developing social or behavioural skills, and increasing motivation toward activities such as exercise or interacting with others.
The process of animal therapy itself typically involves the animal’s handler, who is often the owner, bringing the animal to each session. The handler will work under a doctor’s guidance to help the person achieve the goals of their therapy.
Benefits of animal therapy
The Pet Partners organization notes that these therapies may improve many important markers of stress and disorder by decreasing anxiety and stress, decreasing perceptions of pain, reducing feelings of fear or worry, increasing feelings of social support, and providing motivation, stimulation, and focus.
A review study notes that animal therapy appears to provide general benefits for both physical and psychological health. Evidence for animal-assisted therapy appears strongest for markers of anxiety and depression in the widest range of people.
The researchers note that the therapy may be beneficial for people from many different age groups with various conditions. For example, a 2019 study found that the use of therapy dogs improved the efficacy of mental health treatments among adolescents.
The therapy is helpful for aspects of conditions such as dementia; depression; anxiety; autism spectrum disorder; attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); schizophrenia. Studies involving the use of therapy horses and dogs have shown that animal therapy might also help alleviate the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
It is a type of complementary or alternative therapy. It should enhance but not replace other treatments.
Overall, the goal of animal-assisted therapy is to alleviate or help people cope with some symptoms of various conditions where possible.
Pet owners report more physical activity
“In general, people who owned any pet were more likely to report more physical activity, better diet, and blood sugar at the ideal level,” says Andrea Maugeri, Ph.D., a researcher with the International Clinical Research Centre at St. Anne’s University Hospital in Brno and the University of Catania in Catania, Italy. “The greatest benefits from having a pet were for those who owned a dog, independent of their age, sex, and education level.”
According to the American Heart Association’s scientific statement on the advantages of dog ownership in terms of physical activity, engagement, and decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, the study shows a link between dog ownership and heart health.
The results of the study, according to Dr. Maugeri, support the notion that people may adopt, rescue, or buy a pet as a possible method to enhance their cardiovascular health if pet ownership results in a more active way of life.
Owning a dog is linked with better mental health
According to Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, M.D., the Division of Preventive Cardiology Chair at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, owning a dog may encourage owners to routinely get outside, get some exercise, and play with their dog.
Other studies have connected dog ownership to improved mental health and a decreased sense of social isolation, both of which are risk factors for heart attacks. The senior investigator in this investigation is Dr. Lopez-Jimenez.
The study was performed in collaboration with the Mayo Clinic, the International Clinic Research Centre at St. Anne’s University Hospital, and the University of Catania. This research was supported by the National Program of Sustainability and the European Regional Development Fund.
Materials provided by Mayo Clinic, Medical News Today. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
Andrea Maugeri, Jose R. Medina-Inojosa, Sarka Kunzova, Martina Barchitta, Antonella Agodi, Manlio Vinciguerra, Francisco Lopez-Jimenez. Dog Ownership and Cardiovascular Health: Results from the Kardiovize 2030 Project. Mayo Clinic Proceedings: Innovations, Quality & Outcomes, 2019; 3 (3): 268 DOI: 10.1016/j.mayocpiqo.2019.07.007
Mayo Clinic. “Your heart’s best friend: Dog ownership associated with better cardiovascular health.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 August 2019. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/08/190823080027.htm;
Medical News Today. “What to know about animal therapy.”
Help is here:
Name of the Organisation: Indian Heart Foundation
Foundation is a collective that works with doctors from across the country empowering them to reach out to the people around them better. They are creating medical educational resources and building a global cardiovascular community to promote cardiovascular health at a regional and national level.
Contact: +91 8220277777
Name of the Organisation: Animal Angels Foundation
Rohini Fernandes, is a clinical psychologist and a certified practitioner of Animal-Assisted Therapy from the University of North Texas, USA, and from Delta Society (now Pet Partners), USA. She is also a certified counsellor from St Xavier Institute of Counselling Psychology and a certified practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming having learned from Doctor Richard McHugh.
Since 2001, Rohini has been practicing as a dog trainer and canine behaviourist. She has worked with a wider variety of breeds and specializes in training therapy dogs. She started Animal Angels Foundation in January 2005, after Angel finished her training as a therapy dog.
About six months after she started with “Animal Angels Foundation” she met Radhika, who shared her passion for animals and who also strongly believed in this therapy. They decided to work together and reach out to as many people as they could through Animal Angels Foundation.
Contact: Radhika Nair: 9820144621