Dog Ownership and Dog Walking: The Relationship With Exercise, Depression, and Hopelessness in Patients With Ischemic Heart Disease

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Abstract

Background:

Dog ownership has been associated with increased physical activity in the general adult population.

Objective:

The objective of this study was to examine dog ownership and dog walking and their relationship with home-based and phase II cardiac rehabilitation exercise, depression, and hopelessness in patients with ischemic heart disease.

Methods:

A total of 122 patients with ischemic heart disease were included in this prospective observational study. Patients completed dog ownership/walking questions during their hospitalization. The Cardiac Rehabilitation Exercise Participation Tool, Patient Health Questionnaire-9, and State-Trait Hopelessness Scale were completed by mail at 3, 8, or 12 months later. Regression modeling was used to evaluate the significance of dog ownership/walking on exercise, depression and hopelessness.

Results:

The sample was 34.4% female and had a mean age of 64.7 ± 9.1 years. Forty-two patients (34.4%) reported owning a dog. Patients who owned but did not walk their dog reported significantly lower levels of home exercise compared with patients who walked their dogs at least 1 day per week (36.8% for non–dog walkers vs 73.9% for dog walkers, P = .019). The odds of participating in home exercise were significantly higher for dog walkers compared with non–dog walkers (odds ratio, 8.1 [1.7, 38.5] vs 1.0). There were no differences in phase II cardiac rehabilitation exercise, depression, or hopelessness between dog owners and non–dog owners or between dog walkers and non–dog walkers.

Conclusions:

These findings show a beneficial effect on home-based exercise for those who dog-walk at least 1 day per week. Healthcare professionals should encourage dog walking to increase dog owners' physical activity levels.

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