October is Adopt-A-Shelter-Dog Month. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals sponsors this event to promote the adoption of dogs from local shelters. Approximately 3.3 million dogs enter shelters every year.

Owning a pet seems like a good idea, especially for isolated seniors. Let’s go one better: Owning a dog may help you maintain a healthy heart, especially if that pet is a dog, according to a new study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings: Innovations, Quality & Outcomes.

“In general, people who owned any pet were more likely to report more physical activity, better diet and blood sugar at ideal level,” says Andrea Maugeri, a study researcher. “The greatest benefits from having a pet were for those who owned a dog, independent of their age, sex and education level.”

Benefits of pet ownership

Maugeri hinted at one of the benefits, which is physical activity. The National Poll on Healthy Aging, sponsored by AARP and the University of Michigan, found many more. Pets help older adults enjoy life, make them feel loved, reduce stress, provide a sense of purpose and help them stick to a routine. Pets connect people. Pets help older adults cope with physical and emotional symptoms by taking their mind off pain.