Dog ownership was linked to improved outcomes after a major CV event and with a lower risk for death in the long term, according to two studies published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.
“The findings in these two well-done studies and analyses build upon prior studies and the conclusions of the 2013 American Heart Association Scientific Statement ‘Pet Ownership and Cardiovascular Risk’ that dog ownership is associated with reductions in factors that contribute to cardiac risk and to cardiovascular events,” Glenn N. Levine, MD, professor of medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, director of the cardiac care unit at Michael E. DeBakey Medical Center in Houston and chair of the writing group of the AHA’s scientific statement on pet ownership, said in a press release. “Further, these two studies provide good, quality data indicating dog ownership is associated with reduced cardiac and all-cause mortality.”
Study on Swedish patients
Mwenya Mubanga, MD, PhD, assistant undergoing research training in the department of medical sciences, molecular epidemiology at Uppsala University in Sweden, and colleagues analyzed data from 181,696 patients with MI (mean age, 71 years; 64% men) and 154,617 patients with stroke (mean age, 73 years; 55% men) between 2001 and 2012 from the Swedish National Patient Register. Patients were aged 40 to 85 years and did not have an event between 1997 and 2001. Information on dog ownership was collected from two dog registers, as dogs are required to be registered in Sweden since 2001.
Death was the main outcome that was assessed in this study. A secondary outcome included rehospitalization for the same event after 30 days.
Dog ownership accounted for 5.7% of patients with MI and 4.8% of those with stroke.
During 804,137 person-years of follow-up for patients with MI, dog owners had a reduced risk for death after hospitalization, which was seen in those who lived alone (adjusted HR = 0.67; 95% CI, 0.61-0.75) and those who lived with a partner or child (aHR = 0.85; 95% CI, 0.8-0.9).
Similar results were seen for patients with ischemic stroke during 638,219 person-years of follow-up. The adjusted HR for patients who owned a dog and lived alone was 0.73 (95% CI, 0.66-0.8) and 0.88 for those who owned a dog and lived with a partner or child (95% CI, 0.83-0.93).
Dog ownership was also associated with a reduced risk for hospitalization for recurrent MI (HR = 0.93; 95% CI, 0.87-0.99).
“One mechanism may be an increased motivation for engagement in consistent physical activity in dog owners, a factor regarded important in post-event recovery of cognition, arm function, balance and gait,” Mubanga and colleagues wrote. “Another explanation is reduced risk of depression, an important risk factor for death after myocardial infarction.”
Systematic review, meta-analysis
In another study from the same publication, Caroline K. Kramer, MD, PhD, assistant professor in the division of endocrinology and metabolism at University of Toronto, and colleagues performed a systematic review and meta-analysis of data from 3,837,005 participants from 10 studies published between 1950 and May 24, 2019.
Studies were included if they included original data of prospective observational studies, included patients older than 18 years, reported CV mortality or all-cause mortality and evaluated dog ownership at baseline.
During a mean follow-up of 10.1 years, there were 530,515 deaths.
There was a 24% risk reduction for all-cause mortality in participants who owned a dog compared with those who did not (RR = 0.76; 95% CI, 0.67-0.86). Six studies showed a significant reduction in the risk for death in participants who owned a dog.
Participants with prior coronary events who lived in a home with a dog had an even more pronounced reduction in the risk for all-cause mortality (RR = 0.35; 95% CI, 0.17-0.69; I2 = 0%). When the analyses were restricted to studies that evaluated CV mortality, there was a 31% risk reduction for CV death in participants who owned a dog (RR = 0.69; 95% CI, 0.67-0.71; I2 = 5.1%).
“Taken together, our meta-analysis suggests the need for further investigation of the potential for dog ownership as a lifestyle intervention that may offer significant health benefits, particularly in populations at high risk for cardiovascular death,” Kramer and colleagues wrote.