A recent study conducted in Sweden found the risk of death for dog owners returning home from hospital after a stroke or heart attack was significantly lower than those who didn't come home to a face-licking ball of happiness.
Uppsala University researchers used a major national health register to come up with a list of nearly 182,000 patients aged 40 to 85 who'd suffered an acute heart attack between 2001 and 2012.
Similarly, they collected information on just over 150,000 patients the same age who'd had a stroke during that period.
Even following the best medical care, patient health can take a turn for the worse after returning home. In the year following their heart attack, roughly 30,000 of the patients had passed away.
Several years ago, the same Uppsala researchers found those who owned dogs generally had better cardiovascular health. Now it was time to see if that translated into improved odds of survival in the wake of a hospital stay.
Across the two groups of patient records they gathered for this new study, roughly one in twenty people had current records of dog ownership - as Sweden instated mandatory dog registration in 2001, the researchers used this measure as a proxy for identifying the dog owners in their sample.
By comparing the mortality rates between the dog owners and the rest of the patient sample, the team found not only were our canine companions correlated with better health, that improvement was a real life saver.
For those who lived alone with their pup, the risk of dying in the wake of a heart attack was a full third lower. Even if there was a partner or a child waiting at home, adding a dog to the mix improved odds by around 15 percent.
The results were similar for those who'd had a stroke; those living alone with a dog saw a 27 percent drop, while those with a dog in addition to a partner or child were 12 percent better off.