IN honour of International Dog Day, an online GP service has put together the health benefits of owning a dog.

The commentary, put together by Push Doctor’s chief medical officer, Dan Bunstone, focuses on why dogs can have a positive impact on our health, wellbeing, mental health and long term fitness.

Mr Bunstone, who is also head of Chapelford Medical Centre, shared the following information:

How owning a dog can improve your mental health and wellbeing

“There’s a reason dogs are called a man’s best friend. They provide companionship, a sense of responsibility and can help to keep us motivated and active.

“Research from Duke University has shown that having a dog can lead to a release Oxytocin, a hormone that allows us to create a strong bond with our pet.

READ MORE: International Dog Day: 100 cute pictures of our readers furry friends

“Not only does this reduce the feeling of loneliness, but a dog’s awareness of human distress signals – which has led to their useful role as therapy dogs – helps them to comfort or distract us during times of high stress or anxiety.”

Teddy and nan

Teddy and nan

How owning a dog can improve our mood and happiness

“Being in the company of a dog has been found to elevate our dopamine and serotonin levels – the hormones that help us to stay calm and relaxed.

“What’s more, just a few minutes of contact with a dog can reduce levels of cortisol, the body’s intrinsic “stress” hormone which when high can lead to higher level of adrenaline circulating around the body which can cause the symptoms of anxiety.

“Hormones aside, owning a dog can also improve our social interactions.

“A study at Emery University demonstrated that dog owners are more self-confident when out with their pet, and so more likely to engage in conversation with new people they meet whilst out on a walk.”

Ozzie and his owner

Ozzie and his owner

A dog’s impact on our fitness levels

“Having a dog can certainly keep you active.

“BMC Public Health has reported that 87% of dog owners meet the recommended amount of physical activity a week - 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise – whilst only 47% of non-dog owners reach this amount.

“One study found that two-thirds of dog owners took their pet out for a walk at least once a day, and were less likely to cancel their fitness plans than those without a dog.

“That doesn’t just include going out for walks either – dog owners have also been shown to spend 69% more leisure-time doing physical activities when they’re back at home, too which will have a positive impact on their fitness levels and overall health.”