Special Feature | On Balance: The Healing Power of Dogs

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Cardiology Magazine Image
Cardiology Magazine Image

Our little Honey Bun is all the proof my family and I need of the restorative power of dogs. Is there any better lift to the spirits than our dog? Well, for some of us, there are several dogs in the family.

Their welcome when we return from our work day is just the boost many of us need, delightfully forcing us to take a break from work and take time for ourselves and our families.

Beyond boosting our spirits and getting us up and out every day, their companionship brings a host of benefits, from lowering blood pressure and heart rate and even the sympathetic response to stress, to increasing social interaction and improving mental well-being. All of which can contribute to better cardiovascular outcomes.

But, like me, did you see the results of two recent studies showing dog ownership improved survival?

One study showed even cardiovascular mortality was lower and the other showed better survival after a cardiovascular event.

Fun fact for my colleagues who treat patients with heart failure: another study showed a small but significant reduction in systolic pulmonary artery and pulmonary capillary wedge pressures and circulating levels of catecholamines in patients with advanced heart failure – all from one 12-minute visit with a dog.

My family has had our share of illnesses. I have experiential proof that the studies of canine healing power are true. Fortunately, though, I can't attest to the impact on survival.

When my wife was in the midst of a long hospital stay with no discharge in sight, we smuggled our Pitty Pat into her room. Not long after that short visit, Gerry was home and recuperating.

A few years before that our sheltie, Shelley, was constantly at my side lending her support and gentleness to speed my recuperation after major surgery.

Yes, there are confounding factors that make proof of causation difficult, especially for a survival benefit. But the Waites family knows for sure that dogs make for a happier, more stress free, and likely a longer life.

How do you keep your life on balance?

Share your stories and tips for self-care and well-being at #CardiologyMag by clicking the Twitter button below.

Meet Honey Bun and Pitty Pat

When our small bichon, Pitty Pat, delivered seven beautiful puppies, we were no longer bothered that our, full- blooded bichon had had a one afternoon stand with the neighborhood rat terrier, Freeloader.

A beautiful heart-shaped spot on her side clinched a home with this cardiology family for our Honey Bun. A wild-haired puppy, she now mothers her own mother and she's the heart of our home.

Cardiology Magazine Image
Cardiology Magazine Image

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This article was authored by Thad F. Waites, MD, MACC, chair of ACC's Health Affairs Committee. He has served on the Board of Trustees and is a past chair of the Board of Governors. The vice chair of the Mississippi State Department of Health, Waites practices clinical cardiology with a focus on interventional cardiology at the Hattiesburg Clinic in Hattiesburg.

Clinical Topics: Heart Failure and Cardiomyopathies, Acute Heart Failure

Keywords: ACC Publications, Cardiology Magazine, Dogs, Ownership, Heart Rate, Pulmonary Artery, Self Care, Blood Pressure, Length of Stay, Social Media, Heart Failure, Happiness, Patient Discharge, Interpersonal Relations, Systole, Systole, Catecholamines, Pulmonary Wedge Pressure


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