Vitamin P: New Discovery—The Secret to Health and Longevity

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If we discovered a new vitamin that helped us live longer, prevent heart attacks, and cure depression, we would all want to take it. In fact, there is such a vitamin. It is called vitamin P. P stands for pets. Pet ownership provides multiple health benefits. And that is good news for Americans, because there are more pets in American households than kids—over 50 million dogs and 50 million cats.

We all know that techniques such as yoga and meditation can offer major health benefits by reducing stress. They’re great. But did you know that the companionship of a dog can provide similar stress relief and other health benefits?

Numerous studies, including those funded by the National Institute of Health, show that dogs can provide better social support and stress relief than even our friends and family can offer.

New research even shows that owning a pet can reduce stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, improve immune system functioning and pain management, increase a sense of trust in others, reduce aggression, enhance empathy, and improve learning. In fact, these health benefits seem to be caused by an increase in oxytocin,(i) a pituitary hormone released right after sex, as well as during breastfeeding, helping to create the mother-child bond.

If you’re really a dog lover, it’s just about impossible to stay in a bad mood when your furry friend comes over and rests his head on your knee and looks at you with those loving eyes. Some studies show that just having a dog can actually control blood pressure better than drugs.

Health Benefits of Vitamin P

Here are some of the health benefits (ii) of dog companionship:

  • Increase longevity after heart attacks
  • Lower cholesterol and triglycerides
  • Improve blood pressure
  • Reduce irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias)
  • Improve blood vessel (endothelial) function
  • Increase physical activity and functioning
  • Reduce medical appointments and minor health problems
  • Predict seizures
  • Alert to hypoglycemia
  • Decrease depression
  • Raise self-esteem
  • Boost levels of exercise and physical activity
  • Improve alertness and attention among elderly people who have pets

That’s the good news. But Americans love to go on a trip or take a vacation, and when they do, what happens to the more than 100 million furry pets in American households? For many pet owners, this is a challenge. I loathe the idea of putting my dog Kobe in a kennel with cold cement floors, bad smells, and cages. Boarding a dog at a kennel can cause a lot of negative effects, and that sad look on his face just kills me. Fortunately, whenever I travel, I have found other pet lovers in my neighborhood who will watch my pooch and in return, receive the health benefits of all that vitamin P while I am gone. Wouldn’t it be great if you, too, had a community of trusted people in your neighborhood that would babysit your dog for free?

I was excited to learn about the fabulous idea of a Dog Care Exchange. Think of it as a big babysitting or sleepover network that can always provide a place for your dog to enjoy a sleepover with other dogs and be cared for by a loving family while you are gone. There is also the added benefit of giving your dog new friends to play with at his own house from time to time. It’s a win-win for both dog and owner. And it’s free, as long as you are a member of this new service called Dog Care Exchange.

Benefits to the Pet

Reduced Stress

Introduce your pet to a Dog Care Exchange member and create a trusting relationship between them. It puts your dog at ease, because he will be around people he knows, unlike at a kennel, where your dog would be surrounded by other potentially aggressive dogs that he has never met before.

Tailored Care

A Dog Care Exchange member can work around your pet’s daily routine to maintain regularity in play and sleep schedules and to keep feeding times consistent, which can help prevent digestive issues. Maintaining your dog’s normal routine keeps him healthy in both body and mind and can balance his energy and activity levels, giving him a calmness you’ll notice when you come home. Building relationships with Dog Care Exchange members is important so that you get the best possible care for your dog.

Less Exposure to Illness

Unlike kennels, Dog Care Exchange members don’t house hundreds of other animals that may be infected with disease or parasites or may unleash overly aggressive energy on your unsuspecting pet. Keeping him in a place similar to his home surroundings will help prevent his exposure to the diseases that can lurk in and around kennels.

Personalized Attention

Individuals from the Dog Care Exchange who have already met your dog and who know his likes and dislikes can give him specialized attention rather than a cold, metal cage. A Dog Care Exchange member can fulfill your dog’s need for undivided attention and personalized care much better than a kennel worker who must tend to several anxious creatures in the same space.

If you have a pet, you want to love him well, because as the research shows, he provides you with many health benefits—the benefits of vitamin P. The Dog Care Exchange is a fabulous way to love your pet back by giving him new canine and human companions to play with while you are out of town. This whole idea just makes sense; it’s better for you, for your pet, and for your wallet!

Check out the Dog Care Exchange, and find someone in your town to share the love and care of your furry friend.

Please leave your thoughts by adding a comment below – but remember, we can’t offer personal medical advice online, so be sure to limit your comments to those about taking back our health!

To your good health,

Mark Hyman, MD


(i) Beetz A, Uvnäs-Moberg K, Julius H, Kotrschal K. Psychosocial and psychophysiological effects of human-animal interactions: the possible role of oxytocin. Front Psychol. 2012;3:234.

(ii) Arhant-Sudhir K, Arhant-Sudhir R, Sudhir K. Pet ownership and cardiovascular risk reduction: supporting evidence, conflicting data and underlying mechanisms. Clin Exp Pharmacol Physiol. 2011 Nov;38(11):734-8.

23 Responses to Vitamin P: New Discovery—The Secret to Health and Longevity

  1. Nancy April 14, 2013 at 10:12 am #

    What a great idea! I had no idea a Dog Care Exchange existed!

  2. Linda Merle April 14, 2013 at 11:06 am #

    For 52 weeks of free joy, you can read the blog and enjoy the cats at Friends of Felines. It is a no kill shelter in Ohio that is also cageless. The cats are well cared for and roam about. Cam is here:
    http://www.ustream.tv/ffrc
    Blog is here:
    http://friendsoffelines.blogspot.com/
    Main website here:
    http://www.fofrescue.org/
    These cats develop quite an on-line following. They include some permanent residents who have disabilities who are happy and productive — and helping to extend our lives. Huge amounts of vitamin P!

  3. Val@holistic mindbody healing April 14, 2013 at 11:09 am #

    I LOVE the idea of a dog care exchange. Like you, I hate the thought of putting my dog in a kennel. Thankfully, he has gramma most of the time. Will definitely check it out.

  4. Danielle April 14, 2013 at 12:14 pm #

    I am so excited about this great news. I love dogs and have always been an owner until the last few years. Many times I think of having a dog again, but I often hesitate as I wonder where would I leave my dog when I go on vacation. And now I can begin to look for a dog because I have the answer. But can anyone tell me what is the best family dog to have, please?

    Thank you

  5. "Mo" April 14, 2013 at 12:45 pm #

    Words cannot describe the quiet and loneliness I feel after saying goodbye to my only child on April 4. Today, he would have been 15 years old….and my fervent wish is that I can progress to the point that I can spend even one day with a sense of joy and purpose once again. This is the single most difficult loss I have ever experienced.

  6. Charlotte April 14, 2013 at 1:36 pm #

    Thank you Dr. Hyman for including our dogs in your health newsletter. Please let me know where in Fairfield County Connecticut there is a Dog Care Exchange. Love it!

    • Profile photo of HymanStaff
      HymanStaff April 17, 2013 at 1:51 pm #

      Hi Charlotte,

      Thank you for your message and your interest in Dr. Hyman’s work. Please contact: Dog Care Exchange for references in your area: http://dogcareexchange.org/.

      Wishing You the Best of Health!

      Dr. Hyman Staff

  7. Karen April 14, 2013 at 3:25 pm #

    I totally agree, but don’t understand why this is skewed towards dogs. Cats provide just as many health-giving benefits, including the purr, which is healing to both humans and the cats themselves. Not saying anything against dogs, having had several incredible pups in my life.

  8. Helen Peters April 14, 2013 at 6:12 pm #

    We had a dog – now we like the fact that a furry animal isn’t running around spreading hair, germs/whatever. They are all just animals – they all act & do all what animals do! Being a nurse I can’t stand germs & dust!
    Sincerely, Helen

  9. Dr. Karen Krahl, D.C. April 14, 2013 at 7:02 pm #

    I like the idea. We have two Schipperke’s and the older one is very frail; blind and deaf. We are lucky enough to have a horse and dog care network right now, but the younger dog will be lonely when the older one passes away. Play dates, sleep overs for dogs, and the exchange. All good ideas. Horses are a bit trickier.

  10. Marie Snavely April 14, 2013 at 10:12 pm #

    What do you have to say about cats? A lot of us are cat people.

    • Profile photo of HymanStaff
      HymanStaff April 17, 2013 at 1:49 pm #

      Hi Marie,

      Thank you for your message and your interest in Dr. Hyman’s work. Cats are wonderful!

      Wishing You the Best of Health!

      Dr. Hyman Staff

  11. Best Vet Care April 15, 2013 at 4:30 am #

    Perfect conclusion of Dog Care Exchange. After reading this post, every single person will love to have a pet and spend the entire life with him. Great benefits!

  12. Suzanne Schaff April 15, 2013 at 2:17 pm #

    WOW, THANK YOU, Dr. Mark, for the idea of the Dog Care Exchange!!!! I love it, and hadn’t heard of it before!!! And THANK YOU for mentioning Vit. P !!!!!!!!! Love that, too!!!!

  13. jawed khan April 15, 2013 at 3:19 pm #

    HI Dr,Hayman,
    As you mentioned about Dog,unfortunately I do not have a dog because of small house but I have a cat,he lobe me a lot but can not play with me,he sleep almost all day,weak-up only when hungry. In this scenario you think it will work the same as dog benefits. Please make reply.
    With Love,
    jawed

  14. Jm April 15, 2013 at 4:57 pm #

    Would you kindly be able to post a bulleted list of the health benefits of cat ownership, please?

    • Profile photo of HymanStaff
      HymanStaff April 17, 2013 at 1:34 pm #

      Hi Jm,

      Thank you for your message and your interest in Dr. Hyman’s work. This article is specific to dogs, people can find benefit in other types of pets as well.

      Wishing You the Best of Health!

      Dr. Hyman Staff

  15. "Jami" April 15, 2013 at 5:18 pm #

    Would you be able to list a detailed list of health benefits for cat ownership, please? Are is the list given, true for all kinds of pets? Thanks!

    • Profile photo of HymanStaff
      HymanStaff April 17, 2013 at 1:33 pm #

      Hi Jami,

      That might be a topic for another blog! People can find benefits in whatever type of pet they choose to have.

      Wishing You the Best of Health!

      Dr. Hyman Staff

  16. Liz September 17, 2013 at 1:10 pm #

    I think I need to set up a Dog Care Exchange in London, England! What a fabulous idea!

  17. Rhonda September 17, 2013 at 6:46 pm #

    That’s a great idea! I can’t have a dog right now because I travel 35% of the time and I’m single. I don’t know anyone in this town. But maybe I could babysit some dogs to “try out” breeds when I’m not travelling, then I would know what kind to get when I retire

  18. Karin C September 17, 2013 at 7:31 pm #

    I love seeing health from such a wide perspective! I know my dogs make me a better person all around!

  19. Joe December 31, 2013 at 4:48 pm #

    Doesn’t having multiple litter boxes provide any help? Could it ever be a technique to hide food so that when the dog/cat get hungry enough, they will search for the hidden fod also provided for them? That probably requires sheets covering the food like a tent, or behind something, requiring some pushing or jumping. You know? That way, the owners on vacation won’t have to worry.

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