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Want to be Healthier? Get a Dog

Is your Facebook page filled with photos of your dog? Do you and your dog have matching team jerseys for Sundays on the couch? You are not alone”and your love for dogs may actually be benefiting your health.

There are around 70 million pet dogs in the United States, according to a 2012 report by the American Veterinary Medical Association.

That's part of the reason why Alaska Regional has brought puppy love into the hospital. Patients staying at the hospital can get visits from one of the dogs that participate in the hospital's pet therapy program. The dogs can stop by just to say hello, or lay with the patient for 15 minutes or longer.

Dogs in the pet therapy program are trained and groomed to make patients feel better. So patients don't have to worry about any sudden reactions or the dogs snatching food off their trays. Aside from the companionship, research is showing that dogs can offer special health benefits.

Here are some of the ways that dog makes you healthier and happier.

Homes of dog owners have more diverse bacteria in them, found a May 2013 study of the journal PLOS ONE. Now, that may sound gross, but it could actually a good thing. Some scientists believe that exposure to the different types of bacteria present in houses that have dogs may put their owners at a decreased risk of developing allergies. This may be because people who have dogs at home build up a tolerance to the bacteria that come with canine companionship.

Dog noses are much more sensitive than human noses, and studies indicate that they can smell minute cancer-related chemical differences on a person's breath.

Source: http://erj.ersjournals.com/content/39/3/511.full

A 2012 article in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management compared stress levels of employees at organizations that did and did not allow dogs in their offices.

Organizations that did not allow dogs at work had “significantly higher stress” at the end of the day than organizations that did allow dogs at work. The employees also showed signs of increased stress on days when dogs were not in the office.

An August 2013 study in PLOS ONE suggests that dogs who yawn when you yawn do so out of empathy rather than mechanical response.

Source: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0071365

If you've ever experienced the comfort of a wet nose nudging you in sympathy you already know that dogs can sense our emotional pain to some extent.

Dogs provide you with more opportunities to exercise and be active outdoors. Those 6am walks in the cold might be tough some days, but they're good for you.

We believe dogs help patients get healthy too. See more about Alaska Regional's Pet Therapy Program!

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