Therapy Dogs

Published 22 Feb 2017

Dogs are indeed man’s best friends. During both good times and bad, a lot of dogs stay loyal to their masters. Furthermore, dogs have helped improve human lives not only by protecting their masters but by also by being objects that help people relieve stress. For some people who need to get their lives back on track, therapy dogs help recharge the soul.Florence Nightingale once said that caring for animals must be allowed to help patients reduce their recovery time. Therapy dogs are specially recommended for patients suffering from chronic and long – term disorders. Even before, health care providers have already recognized the therapeutic benefits of dogs. Researchers realized that the benefits of trained service animals for patient deserve to be given a second look. Inveterately ill patients receive help from therapy dogs in order to improve the physical and emotional states as well as to alleviate the stress they suffer (qtd. in Chilton NP). Despite the fact that specially trained dogs are used to help the disabled, there are a number of significant researches to show that the use of therapy dogs can significantly increase both the life expectancy and quality of life of the elderly as well as the recovery time of those who are ill.

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The ‘elderly’ registers to be the group who are most commonly associated with high levels of stress. Armed with this information, Lorann Stallones, MPH, Ph.D., has the elderly as the subject of her study (Duncan NP). According to Dr. Stallones, as the probability of a life without human companionship continues to increase, compounded by a loved one’s death, the need for social interactions becomes even more fundamental. The elders are very much in need of social interactions in order to maintain their health and sense of well – being (qtd. in Duncan NP). For instance, the responsibility of the companion animal has been passed on by virtue of inheritance from a deceased spouse. For example, the animal may serve as the link to reminisce down memory lane. The process of caring for the pet could help the bereaved ease the pain of loss and sadness. Furthermore, Dr. Stallones acknowledges the benefits of increased social interactions with other people while walking their dog, performing physical activities as being advantageous to the able owner (Duncan NP).

Another study headed by Judith M. Siegel was conducted among the elderly. She focused on pet ownership among people 65 years of age. The data Siegel was able to compile suggests that life’s events enkindle the need for companionship. As a result, situations like these draws one to secure an appointment with the doctor. Throughout the course of her study, Siegel found out that over a period of one year, people who own a pet appeared to require less medical services than those who do not (Duncan NP).

A reduction in the stress suffered by patients as well as an improvement on their responses to various treatments and eventually to their recovery may be achieved by the proper use of pets in the health care scene. The significant effects of pet to humans prove to be a fascinating discovery. Recent researchers continue to confirm what people seem to know by instinct and report anecdotally over the centuries (Duncan NP).

Therapy dogs have several uses. The lovable, fury and faithful creatures gives a universal feeling of well – being and affection that knows no bounds. They aid patients who undergo therapy activities (Natural History Museum NP). Therapy dogs are brought to the hospital and nursing homes to the delight of the patients (United Ostomy Association of America, Inc. NP).

One study suggests that therapy dogs, to a certain extent, offer greater help than a spouse or close friend in relieving stress. This can be attributed to the fact that most stresses are products of critical or negative behavior.

Whereas pets just continue to express his love to his owner. Furthermore, research claims that therapy dogs do more than give solace to the lonely. These pets can even reduce one’s heart rate and blood pressure and give a boost to one’s mood most especially during times when they could have easily fell into depression (United Ostomy Association of America, Inc. NP).

A non – profit organization which goes by the name American Health Foundation in Southern California endorses that animal – human bond offers a great deal of benefits. For one, dogs are the major source of support in making it possible to combat the daily grind. Pet owners get more exercise thus are more physically fit than their counterparts. They feel less susceptible to crimes when they have their dogs as companions. They feel more protected in the presence of dogs at home. The elderly who own pets are able to cope better with life’s events even without the aid of medical intervention. Stress being brought about by social isolation and lack of support from family members and friends are lessened, thanks to pet ownership (United Ostomy Association of America, Inc. NP).

In various parts of the country the sounds that echo in the hallways of cancer centers are shifting. When the said patients happen to be at Ocean Medical Center in Brick NJ, gentle sounds of clicking paws may surprise them.

This is the kind of music that therapy dogs play as they run enthusiastically while wagging their tails to visit patients. Not so long after, these sounds would give way to the echoes of hearty laughs originating from the rooms of patients greeted by their canine guests (Lally, 8).

Over a thousand miles away in St. Louis Park, MN a different kind of sound is heard along the hallways. At yet another hospital, Park Nicollet Health Services/Methodist Hospital, people from the hospice room sing to the tune of “Amazing Grace.” In the meantime, the patient in an outpatient IV therapy sings her heart out while singing “Blowin in the Wind,” while undergoing chemotherapy (Lally 8).

The question that might pop into their minds is “What actually is going on?” Oncology nurses could readily give them the answer. Cancer treatment, as a matter of fact, goes beyond surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Cancer treatments made available today include pet and music therapy and its newest ingredients. They very well complement the painful medical treatments performed (Lally 9).

Dogs are very much willing to go under training to become service animals. “Dogs are especially amenable to being trained as service animals. Dogs are known for their affection and loyalty, but for those with disabilities, a trained service dog can offer greater independence and self – confidence. Many lay persons and even health care providers do not understand the roles a service dog can play” (qtd. in Chilton NP).

Dogs that are trained to help are usually called “assistance dogs.” On the other hand, “service dogs” are the ones who assist the physically and psychologically challenged. Moreover, dogs that lead the blind are called “guide dogs” while “hearing dogs,” as the name implies help the hearing impaired (qtd. in Chilton NP).

Service dogs assist human beings to build therapeutic relationships. They can be of great help for patients suffering from various physical disabilities like spinal cord injuries, arthritis, seizure disorders, sickle cell anemia, multiple sclerosis and even HIV. Lately, service dogs aiding patients with emotional and psychological disorders like depression, neuroses, trauma and anxiety has been a popular demand (qtd. in Chilton NP).

Disabled people who have been living with trained service dogs experience an improvement in their self – esteem and psychological well – being. When they go out in public with their dogs, they become more socially active. They attended school and reported to work more often. These people need minimum assistance from caregivers, paid health care workers as well as families and friends (qtd. in Chilton NP).

Dr. James Lynch, author of the book entitled, The Language of the Hearth, expands the test to cover the useful relations on health to include connections with companion animals. The investigations made lead to the conclusion that the presence and connection made by companion animals brings a person’s blood pressure down. Also, pet ownership can aid a person who suffered from a heart attack to add years to his age. It is as good as saying that truly, companion animals do wonders to the cardiovascular system (Duncan NP).

Sadly, support for the incorporation of a pet into a person’s lifestyle has not been well solicited from our society. The sign that reads, “No pets allowed” has been all too familiar. Transportation, housing and public places, which restrict the presence of pets, make for an impossible scenario to be met by pet owners. Whenever pets are allowed within the vicinity, damage deposits, change of transportation for the animal as well as breed, size and species restrictions are being implemented (Duncan NP).

The trend in medicine in the past has been to classify our crisis into specialties. Since the relationship between animals and allergens has been recognized for quite some time now, a patient is then asked if he owns a pet.

This event has caused tremendous improvements in the remedies and treatment for specific ailments made available today. However, it has not significantly played a huge part in the shared conception that their way of life and surroundings can affect their overall health. Deeply implanted within that is the prerequisite for humans to be able to have important interactions in order to stay in the pink of health (Duncan NP).

Companion animals can very well alleviate the adverse effects of loneliness and stress in a person. This has been an instinctive notion for many years. Today, however, studies have verified this fact to the contentment of scientifically curious minds (Duncan NP).

Marlene M. Rosenkoetter, Ph.D. RN, pens down the influence of pets on life patterns within the confines of one’s home. It is a topic anyone can easily feel comfortable discussing. According to her, the pet is a harmless, inauspicious, and unbiased topic for discussion. A person may be able to get by more efficiently with emotional pain by communicating his feelings to a pet. The aid of pets has been sought in a study conducted by Corson at the Ohio State University, where it was found that patients who have not reacted well to traditional treatments registered progress in terms of receptiveness, communication, improved self – respect and independence (qtd. in Duncan NP).

As they have seen, therapy dogs contributes a lot to their well – being. It is about time to acknowledge the value of pets in their lives. Social service providers and health care professionals would do well in addressing the impact of pets on the health of a patient. Taking into account the information on pet ownership in the patient’s history is also beneficial. By doing so, therapy dogs will surely find its way into the overall treatment plans being formulated. They will be effective in developing long – term rehabilitation strategies. Time dictates the reassessment of the rules that hinder some people from having pets at home. Prejudices, unawareness, erroneous information and out – dated sanitation standards are factors which brought about some of the pet ownership restrictions. The low risk factors related with well – mannered, healthy, immunized pets should be given careful considerations prior to the deprivation of the health benefits of a companion animal (Duncan NP).

Barbara Cowen, a licensed social worker and volunteer coordinator at the AIDS unit at Cedars – Sinai started the “POOCH Program” six years ago. Cowen’s brainchild has caused patients to have slower heart rates, thus requiring less pain medication. Informal stories of the same kind are one too many. However, scientific researches involving the effects of animal – assisted therapy are scarce (Bogle 2).

Marian R. Banks and William A. Banks headed a research on the reduced stress registers among elderly patients aided by therapy dogs while on their way towards recovery. Banks pointed out that the patients involved in their study are not trapped in confusion that therapy dogs are their childhood pets. Instead, they are simply reminded of the joys these creatures have brought them in the old days. Marian Banks is from the Veterans Administration Medical Center in St. Louis while William Banks is from the St. Louis University School of Medicine. Their research made its way to publication in the July 2002 issue of the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Science (Bogle 2).

Loneliness felt among the elderly at a long – term care facility appears to have been reduced due to the weekly visits paid by therapy dogs. These findings appeared in the research conducted at St. Louis. The participants that were chosen for the study claim pet ownership earlier in life. This fact that can be linked to the less stress they have to endure by wanting to relive the positive effects owning a pet could possibly give (Bogle 2).

Fantastic therapeutic benefits being brought by therapy dogs in a patient’s recovery continue to gain recognition among therapists, doctors and medical health professionals. A dog’s nature, its loyalty, the love and joy it brings to a friend prove to be the asset of any therapy program for that matter. Therapy dogs and health care professionals pay visits to the elderly, closed – in and patients in isolation to be able to provide interaction with other living creatures. The non – judgmental and jolly nature of dogs works wonders to a patient’s emotional and social welfare (Marshall NP).

Works Cited

  • Bogle,Lara. “Therapy Dogs Seem to Boost Health of Sick and Lonely.” National Geographic (2002): 1 – 2.
  • Lally, Robin M. “The Sound of Healing.” ONS Connect 22 (2007): 8 – 12.
  • “Loneliness: A Health Hazard of Modern Times.” 2007. Delta Society. Retrieved February 6, 2008
  • “Take a pet not a pill.” 2008. United Ostomy Association of America, Inc. Retrieved February 9, 2008
  • “The Importance of Therapy Dogs.” 10 January 2007. Retrieved February 9, 2008
  • “The Use of Service Dogs for Individuals With Disabilities.” 2008. Medscape Today.
  • “Therapy Dogs.” 9 October 2002. Natural History Museum. Retrieved February 6, 2008.
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