Saturday, April 28th is National Superhero Day. While originally created in 1995 by Marvel Comics, the date can now be used to celebrate fictional superheroes as well as real life heroes. Many love to celebrate our parents, firefighters, and police officers. But let’s not forget about our furry, four-legged friends that get excited just by hearing you walk through the door!

It’s no secret, dogs provide numerous health benefits to their owners that make them worthy of being recognized as the true superheroes.

Reduce Stress: When we get stressed, our bodies produce a hormone called cortisol. Playing with a dog can reduce the production of this hormone and also increase the production of the stress-reducing hormone oxytocin. This means dogs can help humans decrease stress about a tough decision at work, can lower blood pressure, or help a child feel more comfortable about reading out loud.

Improve Heart Health: In recent years, more and more research is being conducted testing the correlation between dog ownership and heart health. You can lower your risk of heart disease by owning a dog, partly because pets can have a calming effect and dog owners tend to get more exercise. There is also evidence showing that people who own dogs have lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. High concentrations of triglyceride in the blood can increase your risk for a stroke, so dogs can help to reduce that risk!

Keep You Fit and Active: Dogs need exercise, and fortunately for you, when you walk your dog, you walk yourself! Your fluffy friend also makes for a great jogging or hiking buddy, making exercising seem a little more fun. The great news is that dogs need exercise and love to go outside year-round! So even when most humans love to hole up in the winter, you will still get some fresh air when walking your pooch around the block.

Boost Immunity: These days our society has become obsessed with being clean. While we’re not saying to stop washing your hands, being overly proactive about cleanliness can leave our immune systems weaker and hyperactive to harmless pollen. Dogs help us to grow healthy bacteria colonies that boost our immune systems. This can keep us from getting sick and reduce the symptoms of seasonal allergies!

Make You Happier: In case the first four benefits from dogs weren’t enough, all of them combined simply make you happier! Our pets reduce stress and depression, get us active, love us unconditionally, and provide us with greater self-esteem.

We’re so lucky to have dogs in our lives, providing friendship and countless other benefits. So, this month, let’s take a moment to recognize our pets as the superheroes who are there for us every day always ready to give sloppy kisses and cozy cuddles!