5 Ways A Dog Helps Your Health

Dogs are fantastic companions who bring all sorts of joy to our lives. Through them, we gain a constant companion and learn to open our hearts. Yet, they also have a practical impact on our lives and health, as we will discover here!

In the film, Hachi: A Dog’s Tale, Hachi, an Akita, senses that something is terrible wrong with his owner, Professor Parker. Desperate, the loyal dog tries to stop the professor at the train station. Hachi instinctively knows it’s the last time he’ll see his beloved friend. So, he gives the professor a final parting gift.

There’s actually real science to this. Moreover, our loyal companions can be trained to save the lives of their human friends.

1. Diabetes Alert Pups

There are many amazing stories! Liam had a typical teen’s life when one day, he had a seizure. This led to four nights of hospitalization. “I was freaked out”, he recalls. But, Lian’s mother, Lisa, went into action.

Ron Pace had been training dogs for 35 years when Lisa approached him. Could Ron train a dog to help her son live a normal life? Ron accepted the challenge.

The canine had to remain table around sharp movements and noise — a special kind of dog. Finally, Ron found a 1-year old lab named Max. And, that’s how Liam got his “best friend” — his own diabetic alert dog.

Today, Max accompanies the teen everywhere. To his mother, the pair are like one person “Liam-Max”. During football season, Liam trains at a local gym. The canine can detect sudden drops of blood sugar. The loyal lab even brings a blood monitoring kit to the teen! I was fascinated by the competency and skill of this Labrador. Max teaches Liam things everyday.

“He’s saved my life… many times,” Liam says.

2. Dogs Detect Seizures

The constant fear and shame has a huge impact on their daily activities. This health issue can restrict where they can go, what they can do, and even the protective clothing they might have to wear. It certainly gets in the way of having a full, carefree childhood.

One day, Leo, a healthy 4 year old, suddenly collapsed. In the hospital he was diagnosed with large brain aneurysms. As a result, Leo will suffer seizures all his life. While hospitalized, the only thing that cheered Leo up were the “Love on Four Paws” therapy dogs. Jasmine recalls, “He lit up, he started walking…laughing, smiling…within three days he left the hospital.” She promised Leo a dog of his own. His name was Henry.

By accident, Henry started detecting Leo’s seizures. The rescue dog alerts Leo’s mom whenever he starts to have a seizure. And, he stays by the youngster’s side to comfort him.

“Henry is a amazing dog! He was on a kill list.” Jasmine says. “Henry is treated like one of us…extremely lovable, kind, patient.”

Having Henry gives her peace of mind, “It allows me to breath… and he can concentrate on being a little boy.”

How do Dogs like Henry do this?

It’s their super-strong sense of smell. This allows them to sense changes in a person’s body, such as their hormones or chemicals in their breath.

The dog associates this scent with the seizure or drop in blood sugar levels. They can then be trained, but some pups naturally signal an alert.

Our pups might even be the next frontier in the fight against cancer!

Nancy Best noticed that her dog would keep sniffing and licking her right breast. Puzzled, she decided to visit her doctor. Further tests revealed that Nancy had cancer of the breast.

Research shows that malignant tissues release chemicals that differ from normal tissue. “It’s not surprising that dogs can recognize these differences,” says Ted Gansler, MD, MBA, director of medical content for the American Cancer Society.

In multiple studies, dogs have been “intriguingly accurate” by smelling breath or urine samples, Gansler says. The latest research, published in 2011 in the journal Gut shows a trained Labrador retriever correctly identified 91% of breath samples and 97% of stool samples from colon cancer patients.

3. No Better (or more Loyal) Friend

In our digital world, loneliness is swiftly becoming an epidemic. Communities change quickly as people move in and out of an area. Families can be spread over thousands of miles.  The elderly who are widowed or live alone are especially affected.

It’s sad that loneliness is such a major issue these days. However, our loyal dogs provide just the ideal amount of companionship, warmth, and comfort.

Everyone loves a cute pup so dogs are also a great way to socialize with others. Taking a dog out for a walk helps our elderly neighbors not only get some exercise but to socialize too. Meeting up with other dog owners is a powerful tool to fight loneliness.

If there’s one thing most people have in common…it’s the love for their beloved animals!

4. The Pep of having a Pup

Dogs are so affectionate, it’s no wonder people love being around them! Just hanging out with a dog feels good. As a bonus, petting a dog can relieve stress and lower blood pressure.

The University of Alabama organizes puppy petting breaks for students during their exams. It helps them relax during times of stress. Often, new students have left a beloved family pet at home.

One study shows that men with AIDS were less likely to get depressed if they had a canine companion. The companionship from a pet helped them to cope with the stress of their condition.

“Counselors with fur” is how one organizer described therapy dogs that visited children traumatized by Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings. In addition, some children were only able to start talking about the tragedy in the presence of the specially trained golden retrievers.

5. Our Furry Alarm Clock

Often, it’s tough getting up and out for some exercise. Especially when it’s early morning and it’s freezing outside. But, our dogs get us going. Especially, when they need to go! And, have you seen anyone more excited than a dog at the sight of a leash? The enthusiasm rubs off!

Dogs force us to stay active. Just being in the sunshine and fresh air revitalizes us physically, and emotionally. Vitamin D – the “sunshine vitamin” – lowers stress and makes us just feel happier. It also works with calcium to keep our bones strong. Do you notice how being out in nature and feeling the sunlight makes us feel better?  This is because the sun produces more serotonin in our bodies — and this increases our feeling of well-being.

You don’t have to take your pampered Pekingese on a ten-mile hike though! Even a quick around the block will do.

There are so many ways having a dog improves our lives — not just our health.

It’s those lessons that we are bringing to you — on our blog and across the site. To reconnect you to what is important in life — Hachi can help in your journey.

How has your dog improved your life? Join the conversation in the comments below!