The healing power of dogs

During the last decade, a revolution took place in research of canine intelligence. We now possess an amazing amount of information on dogs’ thinking and behavior, including whether it is helpful for a severely ill person to have a pet. During history, dogs have always been used in healing therapies, but modern medicine used to look down upon animal therapy, deeming it as unsanitary. This general prejudice started to change beginning with 1980, when an article appeared in a medical journal, which supported the fact that having a pet can help avoiding illnesses.

Our pets can have a miraculous effect on us

Of those patients who are admitted to hospitals with a heart stroke, pet owners have a 23% greater chance to survive at least another year. It turned out from specialized research that those persons who own a pet have lower blood pressure, as well as lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, their pulses don’t jump as high in stressful situations, and they heal faster from diseases than patients who have no pets at all.

Brian Hare dog researcher and evolutionary anthropologist wrote a book entitled “The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs Are Smarter than You Think”, in which he reiterates that nowadays dogs have more kinds of jobs than ever: they search for bombs, smell out drugs, participate in health research, animal protection, and they are also kept for therapeutic purposes. Cancer search dogs can signal melanomas and testicle cancer. Dogs kept for strictly therapeutic purposes cheer up elderly people and help them get better.

In 1987, the US National Health Institute made an official declaration stating that the kind of research which is targeted to human health but does not take animals into consideration cannot be accepted as universal. This statement created negative reactions, and a great number of studies appeared claiming that keeping pets not only doesn’t have anything to do with human health, but it is downright harmful to it.

There is a special situation, however, when dogs have a positive effect on people’s health beyond any doubt, and that is animal therapy. In such therapy, an animal is an active participant in the treatment. Most empirical research demonstrates that this kind of therapy has many positive effects, especially in the case of children.
Playing with a dog for 15 minutes can have the equivalent effect to that of a dose of painkillers. During a routine medical check, children are less frightened if a dog is in the room with them.

Animal therapy is proven to work with adults as well. The anxiety of psychiatric patients is reduced by the visit of a dog more than if the patient participated in a recreational activity. Also, cancer patients found the visit of a dog just as relaxing as a human’s.

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