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Blog: How dogs can boost health in later life

dogs help healthy ageing

13 February 2024

Research suggests that having a dog in your life can boost your immune system, improve your mental health and wellbeing, sharpen your thinking and memory skills, make you more physically able and improve heart health.

One Japanese study even found that dog owners had a significantly reduced risk of dementia.

Why? In addition to the companionship pets of many kinds can offer, dogs trigger owners to be more physically active, to meet and chat more often with others, and to have more contact with nature – all habits that aid healthy ageing.  

Dog ownership can be costly, and should be thought through carefully.  But there are charities that can help.  These include Cinnamon Trust, which can support for older and terminally ill who find pet care a challenge, PDSA, which provides veterinary support for people on low incomes, and Give a Dog a Bone, which helps people aged 60 and older who are on a low income with the costs of owning a rescue dog.

Where dog ownership isn’t feasible, there are alternative ways to enjoy the benefits.  Give a Dog a Bone has Community Spaces in Glasgow, Troon, and Alloa where people can drop in for a free cuppa, a blether, and canine companionship without the responsibility. It also organises group dog walks. And Borrow my doggy matches dog walkers with people needing dog walking support.

While it seems that overall dogs are great for health, there is a caveat.  A review of research on the topic highlighted some studies that had found an association between pet ownership and poor mental health.  While that didn’t necessarily mean one caused the other, the review suggested that where people relied on pets as an emotional prop, instead of seeking professional and social support, this could prove unhealthy.

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