Your Dog or Cat Can be a 4 Legged ‘Therapist’

Researchers at Washington State University have discovered new evidence that petting dogs and playing with cats can be even more beneficial to our health than previously thought. They used college students as their subjects and found that interaction with pets made them calmer in 10 mins.

Their findings, published in the AERA Open journal, proved scientifically that the Animal Visitation Program, or AVP, reduced the cortisol levels of university students who reported a high level of stress.

The levels were measured by collecting saliva samples before and after the interaction with 4-legged “therapists.”

Just 10 mins can have a significant impact,” an associate professor working in WSU’s department of Human Development, said in a recent press release. “We already knew that students enjoy interacting with animals, and it helps them experience more positive emotions. What we wanted to learn was whether this exposure would help students reduce their stress in a less subjective way. And it did, which is exciting, because the reduction of stress hormones may, over time, have significant benefits for physical and mental health.”

Dr. Jamie Turndorf, a noted psychotherapist and relationship expert, says, “It is true that petting your dog, cuddling your cat, or even busing your bird can lower your autonomic nervous system, which de-stresses the body and lowers blood pressure.

Below is a list or other ways having a pet partner can benefit your health, as follows:

  • Eases depression. Clinical studies have been done showing that interaction with animals increases oxytocin levels in humans to help reduce anxiety and depression. “They have done studies, looking at people suffering with clinical depression, and those who have a pet tend to recover faster and need less pharmaceutical intervention,” says Natalie Marks, medical director and veterinarian at Blum Animal Hospital in Chicago.
  • Helps you stay connected. Having a pet gives you a reason to share your love with other pet owners, says Dr. Turndorf. “Strolling down the street with your dog, or sharing photos of your pet with friends is a way to connect with others,” she says.
  • Gives you purpose in life. Taking care of your pet makes you feel needed and wanted. It’s a reason to get up in the morning even when you’d rather hibernate in bed, says the expert.
  • Relieves pain. In a study conducted by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, 34% of patients with fibromyalgia experienced pain relief, improved mood, and energy after a 10-15-min visit with a therapy dog.
  • Reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease. According to the American Heart Association, having a pet can help increase fitness levels, lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and boost overall happiness and well-being.

The Southside of having a pet is that older Americans who own and walk dogs have an increased risk of injury.

A Penn Medicine study showed that fractures related to those who walk dogs have more than 2X’d between Y’s 2004 and 2017 in patients 65 years and older.

The study, published in JAMA Surgery, showed that 78% of the fractures occurred in women, with hip and upper extremity breaks being the most common.

According to Julie Meisler of MyPet’s Animal Hospital in Tennessee, certain precautions should be taken to avoid injury.

Enroll your dog in a training program, which teaches him the proper way to walk on a lead,” she says. “Wear appropriate footwear for the terrain and find a lead that’s both comfortable for you and supportive for both you and the dog. Choose the safest route based on weather and avoid areas that are icy, muddy, or flooding. Always carry a mobile phone in case of an emergency.”

Furry friends, relieve stress, so look after them…

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