You could live longer if you had a dog

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As a single dog owner, an individual is the sole person walking and interacting with their pet as opposed to married couples or households with children, which may contribute to greater protection from cardiovascular disease and death, said the study.

Among canine owners, those who had terriers, retrievers, and scent hounds had lower rates of cardiovascular disease than owners of other dog breeds But the statistical tie might have more to do with the lifestyles that those kinds of dog owners have, where they live-out in the country, rather than the city, say-and other factors, rather than anything specific to the actual breed of the dog.

Fall also adds that there may be slight differences between dog owners and non-owners well before any of the two groups were exposed to dogs, which could have influenced the results.

Older people who live alone are 33 per cent less likely to die over the next 12 years if they have a dog, according to a Swedish study of more than 3.4 million elderly people.

Multi-person household owners also saw benefits, though to a lesser extent.

There is a slightly lower benefit to owning a canine for those who don't live alone - the risk was cut by only 15 per cent. Researchers even considered other factors such as smoking and body weight to make sure the results were as accurate as possible. But did you know your dog could be saving your life? "As a pet owner, I also notice that the people I meet during walks are often other dog owners, especially in bad weather".

While some previous studies have shown similar positive effects for pet ownership generally, others have shown the opposite effect.

"We know that dog owners, in general, have a higher level of physical activity, which could be one explanation to the observed results", Tove Fall, a senior author of the study and a professor at Uppsala University, told ABC News.

Scientists said the companionship was key, along with the physical activity in taking the dog for a walk. Prior research has shown that living alone raises the risk for heart disease.

Researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden have posited the theory that this is due to the fact that dogs have the ability to change their owner's bacterial microbiome by exposing them to bacteria they had not yet encountered.

People who buy hunting dogs may be more physically active in the first place, because the dogs require so much exercise.

"Another interesting finding was that owners to dogs from breed groups originally bred for hunting were most protected".

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