The Animal Doctor by Dr. Michael W. Fox

Owning a Dog Can Save Your Life

DEAR READERS: Dog ownership decreases a person’s overall risk of premature death by 24%, according to researchers who conducted a review of the available medical evidence.

The benefit is most pronounced in people with existing heart problems. Dog owners had a 65% reduced risk of death following a heart attack and a 31% reduced risk of death from heart disease, the researchers said.

“People who had a heart attack prior to getting a dog had even more reduction in mortality,” said lead author Dr. Caroline Kramer, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Toronto.

That analysis was backed up by a separate Swedish study, which found that heart attack and stroke victims who own dogs have a lower risk of dying, particularly if they live alone.

Owning a dog reduced a heart attack patient’s risk of death by 33% if they live alone, and 15% if they live with a partner or child, according to data from the Swedish National Patient Register. Similarly, death risk for dog-owning stroke survivors was 27% lower if they live alone and 12% lower for those living with someone.

Both reports were published Oct. 8 in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

Part of the benefit is likely due to the physical activity that comes with having a dog, Kramer said. Prior studies have come to similar conclusions, and researchers say dog ownership has both physical and mental health benefits. (HealthDay News, Oct. 8)

DEAR DR. FOX: What’s the best dry food on the market that I can purchase for my two Jack Russells? -- L.L., Newark, New Jersey

DEAR L.L.: First, I trust that you are not considering feeding your dogs just dry kibble.

Many are inflammatory and nutritionally incomplete, and the “grain-free” formulations can cause other health issues. Please see my review of some manufactured pet foods, as well as my recipe for home-prepared dog food, on my website (

I feed our dog some dry manufactured kibble such as Halo, freeze-dried dog food from The Honest Kitchen, and one of a number of varieties of good-quality canned dog food -- in addition to the home-prepared dog food. Variety is the spice of dogs’ lives!


There is a growing consensus among holistic veterinarians and other health care professionals and health-conscious consumers that fermented foods are extremely beneficial in helping maintain a healthy gut flora, also known as the intestinal microbiome.

Highly processed foods for humans, dogs and cats alike are lacking in the beneficial enzymes, vitamins, minerals and probiotics that fermented foods provide. These foods include miso, tempeh, probiotic yogurt, kefir and sauerkraut. Visit for more details.

(Send all mail to or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.

Visit Dr. Fox’s website at