Owning a dog can be an instant mood lifter. There’s nothing quite like being eagerly greeted by your dog when you arrive home after a long day. It’s hard to let the toils of work keep you down when your furry friend is jumping around as though you’re the absolute greatest thing in the universe.

Dogs are not only the best friends to countless owners, they are also therapists, caregivers, guides, and even soldiers. In almost every aspect of life, these dutiful canines have constantly proven themselves as the loyal companions for humans since the dawn of time.

If those weren’t enough reasons to own a dog, extensive research has found that dogs help to reduce stress and benefit our overall well-being. According to Alice G. Walton at Forbes, a recent study links dog ownership to a longer life.

But that’s not all they can do, here are 4 amazing health benefits that fido can help you with.

Dogs can lower the risk of a heart attack

In 2001, a Swedish study examined a registry of more than 3 million Swedes who had no history of heart disease. The researchers reviewed the health outcomes of each test subject, as well as whether they owned dogs or not.

What they found was that the subjects who owned dogs showed a lower risk of heart attack and even lower mortality rates.

How is this possible?

Turns out dogs force their owners to get out and exercise on a daily basis, which boosts circulation and improves overall health. In fact, dog owners, on average walk 22 more minutes per day than people who didn’t.

Another reason is that the happiness, warmth, and comfort inspired by petting these four-legged furballs reduce the stress hormone cortisol, lowering the risk of high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases.

Dogs counteract loneliness

Loneliness has been linked to depression and even premature death.  Turns out that owning a loving dog can fill a happy space in a household as a second family member. This doesn’t mean you should throw out your spouse and get a dog instead, but single-person households with dogs did lead to a 33% reduction in mortality risk. On the other hand, this number was just 11% for households that included more than one person.

Another reason is, once again, tied to those inevitable ‘walkies’. During these walks, it’s common to come across other dog-walkers and socialize while your pooches sniff around.

As we all know, social interaction is a major factor in counteracting the effects of loneliness.

Dogs can improve your immune system

Turns out your dog’s saliva works like a probiotic, helping you to develop healthy bacteria that in turn stop you from getting ill.

People who grow up with dogs tend to have an increased exposure to microbes, which forces the immune system to create more antibodies. This boosts the immune system and results in a reduced risk of issues like allergies and asthma.

Who knew?

Dogs can detect cancer

This may sound unbelievable, but it’s backed by science that dogs can detect cancer in humans. Countless people have shared anecdotes of their dogs sniffing or licking a certain area of their body until they saw a doctor.

So aside from improving your health, owning a dog can actually save your life!

Whether it’s a drooling Saint Bernard or an adorably ugly pug, the benefits of owning a dog certainly outweigh the costs of care and maintenance.

For those of you without a dog, give your local shelter a look and see if there’s a fluffy companion who can bring joy (and health) to your life.