The Pet Effect: Dogs May Help Heart Health

January 31st, 2020 by Heaven At Home Staff

Image of dog with stuffed valentines heart in mouth to depict the heart-healthy effect of pets on humans

February is heart health month!

Make sure you give Fido a lovely Valentine this month; he or she may be giving your heart a healthy boost. A growing body of evidence suggests that having a dog may help with heart health by lowering blood pressure, lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels and even reducing mortality after cardiac events.

One study published recently reviewed patient data from more than 3.8 million people in 10 separate studies. Compared to non-owners, dog owners had a 24% reduced risk of dying from any cause; a 31% reduced risk of dying from cardiovascular-related issues; and a 65% reduced risk dying after a heart attack, according to the reports published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

In the U.S., heart disease is the leading cause of death, responsible for one in four deaths, according to the CDC.

“Owning dogs has previously been linked to better mental health and feeling less lonely, which are both thought to decrease the risk of heart attacks,” said Dr. Laurie Brush, founder of Heaven at Home Pet Hospice. “While this new body of research doesn’t prove causality, it certainly furthers the connection.”

The Mayo Clinic is following a ground-breaking longitudinal study in the Czech Republic that began in 2013 with 1,769 adults, 24% of whom were dog owners. The participants are assessed every five years on the American Heart Association’s seven criteria for heart health: BMI, healthy diet, physical activity level, smoking status, blood pressure, blood glucose, and total cholesterol.

The results released this fall confirmed the association between pet ownership and cardiovascular health (CVH) as defined by the AHA. People who owned a pet, and specifically a dog, were more likely to report scores for physical activity, diet, and blood glucose components at higher levels. This translated into higher CVH score among owners of dogs or other pets than non-owners. In fact, dog owners exhibited better CVH even than owners of other pets. The subjects will be followed until 2030.

While researchers do not yet understand why dog ownership seems to improve blood glucose and lipid profiles, there’s historical proof that petting your dog reduces blood pressure.

So pet away, and give your heart to your fur-friend: they’ll help keep it healthy!


Meet Me on the Rainbow Bridge: Coping with Pet Loss

January 26th, 2020 by Heaven At Home Staff

Like their human counterparts, companion animals share an increased death rate during the holidays. Many pet parents face the winter months in mourning.

Pet loss grief can be complicated by a lack of social support, misplaced guilt, and degrees of bonding that might surpass many of our human-to-human relationships. Yet pet loss grief is often “disenfranchised grief” – grief that cannot be easily publicly mourned.

“Our cultural norms and support system play a role in how we react to the loss of our pets,” said Dr. Laurie Brush, founder of Heaven at Home Pet Hospice.

“It’s important to normalize and support pet loss grief, both in humans and in the companion animals left behind.”

Pet Loss Grief Is Real

Research into pet loss grief shows that lasting psychological – and physical – effects can be as strong as grief suffered for human loss. One study published in the New England Journal of Medicine documented a woman who suffered “broken heart syndrome,” a condition in which a person exhibits symptoms that mimic a heart attack, including hormone levels 30 times higher than normal. Another recent study by Eckerd, Barnett & Jett-Dias compared grief severity for the loss of pets vs. humans and concluded that the closeness to the deceased was the strongest predictor of grief severity, not species.

Why Pet Loss Is So Painful

Pets support our emotional well-being and reduce loneliness, depression, and anxiety. Psychologists believe pet loss is so painful because it’s multi-dimensional:

  • Loss of unconditional love
  • Loss of a protégé – It can feel like the loss of a child.
  • Loss of a “life witness”
  • Loss of multiple relationships and routines
  • Loss of primary companion

Help with Healing

Sharing feelings in the safe space created by a support group can be among the most powerful healing experiences for people. In addition, many Heaven at Home clients find that memorializing their pet and engaging in a ritual to celebrate what their fur friend meant in their lives helps with healing.

For more help with pet loss grief, join The West Michigan Pet Loss Support Group hosted the 2nd Tuesday of each month, 6:30 – 8 p.m. at Heaven at Home, 1530 Monroe Ave. NW, Grand Rapids MI. All are welcome. Please RSVP to Ginny Mikita at 616.460.0373 by noon on the meeting date.

Additional Resources You May Find Helpful:


Offsite Resources:

Veterinary Wisdom Pet Parents Resource Center:

Argus Institute at Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital, which proves free grief counseling relating to pet loss and support to those making end of life decisions for their pets –

Day By Day Pet Loss Support offers live chat support Sundays at 7p EST, Tuesdays at 8p EST, or Thursdays at 8p EST at, Click Chat Room.

In Memoriam – Sidney

January 14th, 2020 by Laurie Brush

Sidney’s Story:
I don’t know what to say about my baby girl, Sidney. She was the perfect dog for us. She was so loyal and loving. She made us laugh daily. We loved her so much and she loved us right back. We had her from the time she was just a baby. She did so many little things that showed us what a happy girl she was. Right up until her last day.






I cannot say enough about Dr. Tay’s kindness and compassion. She helped us make sure Sidney was as comfortable as possible. When it came time to say good bye. She fell asleep in our arms in her own house. We miss her in a way I can’t fully describe, but it gave us such comfort that her passing was kind, gentle, compassionate, and at home.

I would highly recommend Heaven at Home. They assisted us in the last months of Sidney’s life to ensure she was as comfortable as possible. When it was time to say good bye, Dr. Tay was incredibly kind. She treated Sidney with such dignity. She totally understood we were losing a loved member of our family. Sidney’s passing was quiet and without fear.

Compassionate home care for your companions!
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