Have you ever wondered if all you really need is your pet? You know, like when life really gets you down and you feel like the only thing you can count on is your furry friend. Well I certainly have. But have ever really thought about why that is?
I decided to look into this idea of pets being just the therapy we need when we’re feeling low. In several of the studies, the results were inconclusive. However, according to one study conducted by the University of Missouri-Columbia, simply petting an animal can reduce levels of cortisol, a hormone that regulates the urge we have for carbs. So that late night snacking we usually partake in from being stressed and not sleeping properly can start to lessen and lessen.
Therapeutic dogs have been a big part of patient treatment in nursing homes, hospitals, and rehabilitation centers. Experimenting with animal therapy, however, is fairly new and is still being tested. Dr. Rebecca Johnson along with other researchers are now questioning who the dogs will benefit more and how much animal-assisted therapy it takes to improve a person’s health.
Dr. Rebecca Johnson conducted a study that included the research from the late nineties of South African scientists. These scientists discovered that as little as fifteen minutes spent petting a dog triggered a positive change in hormones in both the dog and human.
So what were the errors in this experiment?
Issues with this study were its size- too small. It consisted of only eighteen subjects and an even small number of dogs. The scientists neglected to test for alterations in serotonin levels, eliminating the possible discovery of a connection between petting a dog and healing depression. Heightening our serotonin levels has several positive effects- better concentration, better sleeping habits, better sense of personal happiness.
Keep in mind, however, that this is just one of several studies that have been conducted regarding the effects of animal-assisted therapy. Dr. Johnson’s larger study included one hundred subjects- fifty dogs and fifty adult owners. Owners were brought to a room where they were asked to pet their own dogs, a stranger’s dog, and a robotically constructed dog for fifteen to thirty nine minutes.
Blood tests were administered to both the owners and the dogs before the petting sessions, as well as five minute intervals during and fifteen to thirty minutes afterwards. The results revealed that the blood pressure levels in the both the owners and the dogs decreased by a whopping ten percent.
According to the article, Dr. Johnson’s findings showed only a spike in serotonin levels when the subjects pet their own dogs. She detected a decline in these hormonal levels whilst the subjects were petting the robotic dog. Her study further supports my opinion in that the personal connection between dog and owner is the reason people feel so relaxed from simply stroking these furry creatures. This connection is a bond that goes deeper than just ownership. It’s a friendship.
So now the question remains…
Should pet therapy become more prevalent in the treatment of ill patients based on recent findings? Would you consider this new type of therapy to be effective in the improvement of patient health?
Think about it.