The Power of Pets: How Therapy Dogs Can Help Us Heal
Dogs may be more than just man’s best friend. The animals may also help the sick heal more quickly.
A study of heart failure patients at the University of California Los Angeles showed those who were visited by a therapy dog while in recovery saw their heart pressure drop by 10 percent, epinephrine (a hormone the body makes when under stress) levels drop 17 percent and anxiety levels were lowered by 24 percent.
Project PUP, a local therapy dog organization, has been bringing dogs to hospitals, hospice facilities and senior living communities for more than 25 years. The animals provide companionship and perform tricks to lift the spirits of the residents.
Pets have long been recognized for their unique ability to offer comfort and companionship in times of stress, but many studies have shown that the benefits of interacting with a loving animal are far greater than one might expect.
For nearly 40 years, pet therapy has been studied extensively by healthcare practitioners and nursing professionals. Research findings indicate an increase in the quality of life for individuals participating in pet therapy, particularly with children and the elderly. In addition, bonds that patients develop with a pet lead to an increased emotional connection, helping to reduce feelings of loneliness or isolation often experienced as they age.
Research has shown that pet therapy can increase social interaction, lower blood pressure, improve self-esteem and even decrease anxiety and depression. In a study conducted by Kal Kan pet food, 57 percent of psychologists would recommend pet therapy to a patient and research indicates this number is on the rise.
Seniors are at a higher risk of experiencing depression as they become less able to do things for themselves. Visiting with pets provides an easy and enjoyable way for seniors to be social, reduce stress and boost their self-confidence.