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Pet Ownership and the Risk of Dying from Cardiovascular Disease Among Adults Without Major Chronic Medical Conditions

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In a recent statement, the American Heart Association stated “There are scant data on pet ownership and survival in people without established cardiovascular disease (CVD)”. This study sought to fill this gap.


We analyzed nationally representative data of 3964 adults aged ≥50 who were free from major physical illnesses. Pet ownership was assessed at baseline between 1988 and 1994. Vital status was followed through December 31st 2006.


With dogs being most popular pets owned by 22.0 (standard error 0.34) % of the participants, 34.6 % of the study population owned a pet. Pet ownership was associated with low rates of CVD deaths [hazard ratio (HR) = 0.69 (95 % CI 0.45–1.07)] and stroke [0.54 (0.28–1.01)] at borderline significant levels among women. These associations were adjusted for physical activity and largely attributed to having a cat rather than a dog. Among cat owners, the HR of all CVD deaths was 0.62 (0.36–1.05) and the HR of dying from stroke was 0.22 (0.07–0.68) compared with non-cat owners. The corresponding HRs among dog owners were 0.82 (0.51–1.34) and 0.76 (0.34–1.71) respectively. No similar associations were observed among men. The hazard of dying from hypertension was not associated with pet ownership for both men and women.


Owning a cat rather than a dog was significantly associated with a reduced hazard of dying from CVD events, in particular, stroke. The protection pets confer may not be from physical activities, but possibly due to personality of the pet owners or stress-relieving effects of animal companionship.

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Author contributions

Preliminary results of this work were submitted by Ms Ogechi in partial fulfillment of the requirements for her degree in Master of Public Health. Dr. Zhang conceived and designed the study, acquired, and critically revised it. Dr. Zhang had full access to all of the data in the study, takes responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis; Drs. Hansen and Liu assisted in designing, analyzing and interpreting the data and revising the manuscript; Ms. Snook, and Davis drafted and revised the article.

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Correspondence to Jian Zhang.

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Funding source

The project was done with no specific funding.

Financial disclosure and conflict of interest statement for all authors

There is no conflict of interest to be declared, and no honorarium, grant, or other form of payment was given to anyone to produce the manuscript.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study by National Centers for Health Statistics (NCHS), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia, United States. The NCHS IRB/ERB Protocol Numbers are #2011-17 (NHANES 2013-2011), #2005-08 (NHANES2005-2010), and #98-12 (NHANES1999-2004).

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Ogechi, I., Snook, K., Davis, B.M. et al. Pet Ownership and the Risk of Dying from Cardiovascular Disease Among Adults Without Major Chronic Medical Conditions. High Blood Press Cardiovasc Prev 23, 245–253 (2016).

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