A Publication of WTVP

Not only is the dog man’s best friend, research shows your four-legged friend may also be key to a healthier life. From easing anxiety to improving immunity, canine companions offer a variety of wellness benefits to their owners. Here are eight ways dogs can improve human health:

  1. They lessen the effects of chemotherapy. Besides bringing joy to a dim situation, dogs can boost children cancer patients’ adrenaline, helping them resist some of the harsh side effects of chemotherapy.
  2. They reduce the symptoms of PTSD. Canines are known to help relieve veterans of some of the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, such as chronic fear, anxiety and depression.
  3. They strengthen immunity. Studies have shown that babies living in a home with a dog are generally healthier, suffer fewer respiratory and ear infections, and require fewer antibiotics. Exposure to germs brought in by pet pooches actually helps strengthen a developing immune system.
  4. They relieve student stress. Universities around the U.S. are starting to employ therapy dogs to help students relax during exam time. Some dorms allow students to bring pets from home, and Harvard Medical and Yale Law schools even let students “check out” therapy dogs from their libraries.
  5. They are great motivators. Research has shown that dogs encourage people to exercise. One study found that 60 percent of dog owners who took their pets for regular walks met federal criteria for moderate or vigorous exercise, compared to just 30 percent of non-dog owners.
  6. They help autistic children. A recent study found that dogs may help autistic children develop better social skills when introduced into the home when the child is around five years old. Participants showed gains in their abilities to share with and comfort others.
  7. They heal hearts. Therapeutic dogs can lower anxiety, stress, and heart and lung pressure in patients suffering from heart failure. One study found that heart pressure dropped 10 percent in patients who were visited by a human volunteer with a dog.
  8. They can sniff out cancer. German researchers report that dogs can detect lung cancer by smelling human breath. The four dogs in the study were able to correctly distinguish 71 percent of breath samples from lung cancer patients and accurately identified 91 percent of cancer-free breath samples. iBi

Source:, compiled from the Associated Press, MyHealthNewsDaily, The New York Times, Rodale, Smithsonian Magazine.