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MARTHA SEZ: Who says pet owners live longer than the petless? Read on.

June 8, 2018
By MARTHA ALLEN , Lake Placid News

Pet owners live longer than the petless. Most of us have heard this truism so many times that we now simply accept it. But who says? Wait a minute and I'll Google it.

All right, here we go. A study conducted at Uppsala University in Sweden followed more than 3.4 million Swedish men and women between the ages of 40 and 80 over a 12-year study period. The study, published in "Scientific Reports" in 2017, found that dog ownership is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and death. Benefits for people who live alone are even greater than for people sharing a household, according to the study.

The results are interpreted differently depending on what article you read or who you talk to.

For example, a person-let's call him Stan-is heading home after work on the train when he happens to pick up a magazine. An article about the Swedish dog study catches his eye. Up until this time he has been living happily with his partner, Jill. Stan learns that dog owners are 23 percent less likely to die from cardiovascular problems than people who don't own dogs. Wow, Stan thinks, I'd better get a dog.

Reading on, he finds that people who live alone benefit most from having a dog. They are 33 percent less likely to die from cardiovascular problems. Now he is faced with a problem. Should he and Jill break up, acquire dogs, and live alone? Maybe they would both be better off. On the other hand, he is fond of Jill, and he was once bitten by a German shepherd.

When Stan arrives home, Jill notices that he seems distant, preoccupied.

"Look," she says, "Our box came from Blue Apron! Saffron chicken!"

Stan just stares out the window.

That's Stan for you. Jill doesn't know what's bugging him, but she does know he'll get over it, whatever it is.

Researchers found that retrievers, pointers and terriers provide the most protection from heart disease and death. The reduced risk for pointers is 40 percent, and for retrievers 26 percent. Some people attribute this health advantage to the fact that these dogs require more exercise than other breeds, and so their owners are forced to exercise more.

Others say that people who enjoy outdoor exercise are more likely to adopt dogs who need plenty of exercise. These people would have a health advantage over pomeranian-owning couch potatoes anyway, they say.

Statistics show that dog owners tend to be more affluent than cat owners. (goldfish, geckos and tarantulas were not mentioned). Which breeds are associated with the greatest wealth? It doesn't say.

Veterinarian bills, heartworm and tick medications, dog food and paraphernalia, including tennis balls, are all a drain on discretionary spending. Lawsuits involving dog bites and destruction of property cut into the budget as well. And don't forget the cleaning bills.

Dogs are supposed to be good for children because they track in dirt and natural allergens that are presumed to benefit developing immune systems. Later in life, the theory goes, people who were exposed early on to dogs (and cats) are less likely to overreact to things like ragweed and viruses.

Other studies have shown that having a cat around has a calming influence on humans. Petting a cat releases a hormone called oxytocin, sometimes referred to as "the love hormone," particularly in dopey pseudo-scientific magazine articles. Petting a dog probably causes oxytocin release in humans too, but since I read about it in a pro-cat publication, dogs were not mentioned.

I often wonder about the old dogs versus cats war. Why can't we like both? Here's another so-called statistic I picked up: Cat owners are smarter and more sensitive than dog owners, but they are likely to have fewer close friends and engage in sexual activity less frequently. Quality was not mentioned.

Dog owners are said to have a larger carbon footprint than cat owners.

Studies show that cat owners are less likely to be at risk for having a stroke than any other pet owner.

I even came across some inspiring anecdotes of heroic cats who saved humans' lives, but I imagine such incidents are rare. Fluffy, for example, woke up its owner, Frida, at 4:30 a.m., yowling until Frida got up and opened a can of Fancy Feast. Shortly afterward, a pine tree in the yard fell over and smashed through the bedroom roof. How did Fluffy know?

Have a good week.



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