Pet Ownership and the Risk of Dying from Cardiovascular Disease Among Adults Without Major Chronic Medical Conditions

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High Blood Pressure and Cardiovascular Prevention






Introduction: In a recent statement, the American Heart Association stated “There are scant data on pet ownership and survival in people without established cardiovascular disease (CVD)”. This study sought to fill this gap.

Methods: We analyzed nationally representative data of 3964 adults aged ≥50 who were free from major physical illnesses. Pet ownership was assessed at baseline between 1988 and 1994. Vital status was followed through December 31st 2006.

Results: With dogs being most popular pets owned by 22.0 (standard error 0.34) % of the participants, 34.6 % of the study population owned a pet. Pet ownership was associated with low rates of CVD deaths [hazard ratio (HR) = 0.69 (95 % CI 0.45–1.07)] and stroke [0.54 (0.28–1.01)] at borderline significant levels among women. These associations were adjusted for physical activity and largely attributed to having a cat rather than a dog. Among cat owners, the HR of all CVD deaths was 0.62 (0.36–1.05) and the HR of dying from stroke was 0.22 (0.07–0.68) compared with non-cat owners. The corresponding HRs among dog owners were 0.82 (0.51–1.34) and 0.76 (0.34–1.71) respectively. No similar associations were observed among men. The hazard of dying from hypertension was not associated with pet ownership for both men and women.

Conclusions: Owning a cat rather than a dog was significantly associated with a reduced hazard of dying from CVD events, in particular, stroke. The protection pets confer may not be from physical activities, but possibly due to personality of the pet owners or stress-relieving effects of animal companionship.