Important Study Shows Dogs Do Better Living with Other Companion Animals

Story by Rebecca West
As concerned pet owners, we’re constantly scanning the horizon for ways to improve their quality of life any way we can. We make sure to take them to the veterinarian for regular checkups, provide them with the highest quality foods and treats we can afford, ensure they’re walked regularly, and try to provide them with the mental stimulation and enrichments recommended for long, healthy, and happy lives. Afterall, in our estimation, they deserve it for everything they provide us in return.

Well, scientists have now struck upon another way to improve your pet’s day-to-day existence. A 2023 study involving more than 21,000 canines conducted via the Dog Aging Project looked into a variety of environmental and social factors associated with the lifespans of our canine companions. According to their results, having more than one pet in the home or adopting another could be vital to your dog’s overall health and well-being.

This shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone. Put yourself in their place and imagine, if you will, not having a peer to interact with for large swaths of the day. Loafing around for hours on end in what is basically an isolated state, hoping upon hope that someone will arrive to chat with you, hang out with you, or want to go and do something fun with you, can be incredibly lonely — especially if you’re a highly social being, which dogs are.

Routinely feeling alone and bored is something so many of us had to deal with during the pandemic, and it did not go well for a lot of folks. Feelings of isolation or loneliness are documented as having negative impacts on our mental well-being, which can influence our physical health. If you’re a companion animal rather than a working animal, you live for the moment your human(s) return home. Unfortunately, your pet parents aren’t always going to have the strength, energy, or interest after presumably working all day to give you more than a pat on the head or a belly rub before putting their feet up.

The study results for the Dog Aging Project pointed to the fact that doggos that regularly socialize with other canines experience improved overall health in general. In homes with more than one pet, researchers routinely found this to be the case. Interestingly enough, the perceived benefits weren’t limited to just doggy interactions, either. In other words, the animal companions didn’t have to woof and pant to make a difference. They could meow or even squeal, but they were present and interacted with family canines regularly.

Entitled “Social determinants of health and disease in companion dogs: a cohort study from the Dog Aging Project,” the findings were published in May 2023 in the journal Evolution, Medicine & Public Health.

The data collected boils down to this: dogs are frequently healthier when they share a living space with another companion animal. The word “frequently” is used because, of course, there can be exceptions to this rule, such as animals living in situations with other pets that are aggressive or abusive. Just like people, some animals are crabby and pick on those around them.

The intriguing findings were based on survey data collected and reviewed by scientists from Arizona State University, the University of Washington, and other institutions of higher learning. As a side note, ASU and researcher Lisa M. Gunter have taken part in a number of canine studies over the years, including the impacts of shelter life on dogs and how the stress hormone cortisol negatively impacts them.

The hope is that these discoveries about healthy aging in our canine companions will someday translate into medical advances for people, too, so that we can both live longer and stay healthier together. Studying human aging is challenging and expensive, but dogs are science’s best friends. Even though they age more rapidly than us, they are similar in that they experience the same diseases of aging that we do, they are genetically diverse, and they share our environment as well as our emotional sensitivity.

If you’d like to get involved, the innovative Dog Aging Project is focused on bringing together a community of dogs, pet owners, veterinarians, researchers, and volunteers to carry out “the most ambitious canine health study in the world,” as they put it. You can get more information on how to help or enroll your own dog(s) in the project by visiting https://dogagingproject.org/ and becoming a partner to help future generations of canines live their best lives possible!



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