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Dog owners may reduce CVD risk

Pet ownership, particularly dog ownership, may be associated with decreased cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk, according to an American Heart Association (AHA) scientific statement, published recently in Circulation.1

The statement critically assesses data regarding the influence of pet ownership on the presence and reduction of CVD risk factors and CVD risk, from numerous studies. Reported beneficial effects include increased physical activity, favorable lipid profiles, lower systemic blood pressure, improved autonomic tone, diminished sympathetic responses to stress, and improved survival after an acute coronary syndrome.

The writing group concludes that pet ownership, particularly dog ownership, may have some causal role in reducing CVD risk, and therefore pet adoption, rescue, or purchase may be reasonable for reduction in CVD risk.

However, they caution that the primary purpose of adopting, rescuing, or purchasing a pet should not be to achieve a reduction in CVD risk, and that without a plan of regular aerobic activity and implementation of other primary and secondary cardiovascular preventive measures, it is not a sound or advisable strategy for reduction in CVD risk.

Given that most of the studies were nonrandomised, it cannot be determined with confidence whether the reduction of CVD risk factors with pet ownership is merely associative or causative, they warn, although they assert that there are plausible psychological, sociological, and physiological mechanisms for causation for many of the associations, particularly dog ownership and increased physical activity

Future studies of pet ownership and CVD risk, when possible, should be prospective, include and account for socioeconomic factors and comorbid medical conditions, use well defined and quantifiable end points, and use robust statistical analytical methodologies, they conclude.


1. Levine GN, Allen K, Braun LT, et al. Pet ownership and cardiovascular risk: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation 2013;127.

Published on: June 20, 2013

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