A dog a day keeps the doctor away

A dog a day keeps the doctor away

Dogs are a prescription for better health. Scientists have found that they reduce stress and our blood pressure. Walking them keeps us in shape. They’re a great icebreaker and make it easier to socialize, which in turn benefits mental health.

Now Canadian researchers are finding that our dogs might also help alleviate pain.

A team at the University of Saskatchewan asked about 200 people at a local emergency room to rate their pain, anxiety, depression and general well-being on a scale of 0 to 10. Half of these patients served as a control group and received no intervention for their pain. The remaining participants were the lucky ones.

After their pain assessments, they got to spend 10 minutes with a certified therapy dog. The study is silent on the dog breeds involved. These therapy pooches are clean and well-behaved. Can’t have mischievous hounds running wildly through a medical facility, after all.

Investigators say the doggie intervention proved beneficial across the board. About half the patients reported a reduction in anxiety. A drop in feelings of depression was noted by 46%, improved well-being by 41% and lessened pain by 43%. Findings are described as clinically significant.

Researchers say their study provides scientific rigor often lacking in similar work on therapy dogs. And they say doctors can start thinking about better integrating dogs into medical settings.

While this work applies to an emergency room, it reinforces the notion that our pets provide more than their unconditional love. They help keep us healthier and happier.

Now, doctor’s orders: Hug two Chihuahuas and call me in the morning.

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