Dog owners fitter, slimmer and healthier, study finds

Canine companions have also been linked to improved mental health and reduced social isolation.

Want to improve your diet, fitness and general health? A study says the answer lies in man’s best friend.

Research published by Mayo Clinic has found keeping a pet is associated with better cardiovascular health, especially if that animal is a dog.

The study examined the association of pet ownership with cardiovascular disease risk factors.

‘In general, people who owned any pet were more likely to report more physical activity, better diet and blood sugar at ideal level,’ said researcher Andrea Maugeri. ‘The greatest benefits from having a pet were for those who owned a dog, independent of their age, sex and education level.’

Dr Maugeri said the findings support the idea that people could rescue or purchase a pet as a way to improve their heart health, if the ownership led them to a more active lifestyle.

Keeping a dog may prompt owners to go out more, move around and play with their pet, according to Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, a senior investigator for the study. Owning a dog also has been linked to improved mental health and reduced social isolation.

The US research was performed in collaboration with Mayo Clinic, the International Clinic Research Center at St Anne’s University Hospital, and the University of Catania.

Our affinity with dogs was highlighted by another study hitting the headlines this week.

A group of scientists, led by Katherine Young of King’s College London, tested human responses to the whining of distressed dogs and the miaows of aggravated cats and across the board, people found the dog whines the most emotionally affecting sound.

The results also called pet owner stereotypes into question. Cat owners were found to be no more neurotic than the population at large, and dog owners no more sociable. Either way, we evidently owe a lot to our fury friends.