Man's best friend. Doge. Fido. Air Bud.
Unlike cats, dogs may not have nine lives. But they do have many monikers. Including canine, which is a bit ironic. And a number of scientific studies suggest dogs may actually be wonderful for your health.
1. They can help you stay ahead of epilepsy.
While seizures themselves typically end on their own without causing serious damage, they can cause people to fall over and bruise, burn themselves, or break their bones. Also: If people with epilepsy aren't turned on their sides during an episode, they can inhale their own vomit and possibly die.
That's where seizure assistance dogs come into play. Properly trained pooches bark when their owners have a seizure. Joel Wilcox, 14, says his adorable Papillon gave him the "independence and confidence to just go to school or attempt activities,” without having to live in fear of seizures.
2. They get you to exercise.
Researchers from Michigan State University found that nearly half of dog-owners exercised 30 minutes a day, five days or more a week. Do the math, and that comes out to an average of 150 hours of exercise a week — exactly what the CDC suggests you get.
Another study out of Australia found dog-owners walked roughly 30 minutes more a week than those without four-legged friends in their lives. Not known: What percentage of those walks was spent watching dogs pee indiscriminately on things.
3. They can lower your blood pressure.
Research published by the NIH found that pet owners might be protected against cardiovascular risk. That doesn't mean you can eat Taco Bell for a month straight just because you own a Chihuahua. But seeing as heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, it is promising.
4. They can help you kick smoking.
An online poll conducted by the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit found that about one in three smokers said the health of a pet would motivate them to try to quit smoking. So go ahead and get your smoker friend a dog for Christmas. Or dress up like a dog, then kindly ask them to quit.
5. They keep you from seeing the doctor all the time.
According to a study published in the Australian Social Monitor, dog owners made 15 percent fewer visits to the doctor than those who didn’t have a four-legged friend at home. Giving you all the extra time you need to teach your dog how to play basketball.
6. They may help you battle depression.
In one cross-campus study, college students who were dealing with depression were invited to spend a couple hours with a therapy dog. They could pet, play fetch, and even take selfies. The results: A 60 percent decrease in self-reported anxiety and loneliness symptoms.
7. They can save you from a burning building.
Dogs have made headlines over the years for saving their owners from imminent death. In July 2014, a 2-year-old pit bull saved a deaf boy from a house fire. The pooch licked the sleeping kid's face, and the two made it out alive. It's sort of like Free Willy, if the killer whale was a deaf boy, and the inner city kid was a pit bull. On second thought, it's nothing like that movie. But it sure is a feel good story.
8. They can sniff out cancer.
Everyone knows dogs are great at smelling soggy tennis balls and used socks. Less known: Some canines can actually smell out cancer.
A study in the journal Gutfound that a specially trained Labrador retriever could accurately detect cancer when smelling breath and stool samples. Are dogs set to replace doctors? Not quiet yet. But given cancer kills over 500,000 Americans a year – according to the CDC – it's important to have options.
9. They can help prevent fatal peanut allergies.
Poodles, labs, and other dogs have been trained to detect minute traces of peanuts. Which is great news for anyone who suffers from severe peanut allergies. But it's bad news for anyone who's on a budget, as the cost of owning, training and maintaining a peanut detection dog can cost thousands.
10. They may be able to predict earthquakes.
In 1975, Chinese officials ordered residents to evacuate the city of Haicheng after they witnessed dogs (and other animals) acting anxiously. A few hours later, a 7.3 magnitude earthquake leveled most of the town.
Did the dogs accurately predict the disaster? Well, maybe. While the United States Geological Survey (USGS) admits some dogs can probably feel the earth shakeseconds before humans, that’s not quite early enough to save lives. That said, if your dog starts going nuts tomorrow morning, you might want to step out from under the chandelier.
11. They may boost your immune system.
Quick: Think of the healthiest person you know. Then ask yourself: Do they own a dog? One study found that college students who petted dogs had significantly improved immune systems. Want to avoid mononucleosis in college? Don’t: kiss every person you meet while drunk. Do: pet more dogs.