Are you a dog lover? If so, you know just how friendly dogs can be. Therapy dogs, in particular, are especially sweet and affectionate. These are dogs that visit nursing homes and hospitals, offering love and affection to mentally or physically ill patients.1 It’s enough to make anyone smile! Even stressed college students can benefit from a visit. And while therapy dogs aren’t service dogs, they help ease symptoms of these 5 medical conditions.
1. Mood Disorders
From bipolar disorder to depression, mood disorders are marked by extreme emotions that can disrupt daily tasks. They can also develop from dealing with a condition like cancer or heart surgery.2 And while they’re typically treated with medication and traditional therapy, dogs are just as effective. They can ease depression and pain without the side effects of medication.3 No wonder they’re so popular in hospitals.
2. Anxiety Disorders
People with anxiety disorders are often in a state of fear and worry. These feelings are constant and intense, making it hard to socialize.4 Luckily, therapy dogs can actually act as social catalysts. They can also provide comfort when someone needs it the most.5 Since dogs are so fun to be around, they can relax anxiety by just being themselves.
3. Psychotic Disorders
Therapy dogs can reduce anxiety from psychotic disorders like schizophrenia and substance abuse withdrawal. In fact, these furry friends can actually relieve anxiety twice as much as therapy group sessions.6 They also promote the release of oxytocin, an endorphin that’s linked to calm feelings.7
4. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can develop after experiencing a terrible event. This can be anything from a loved one’s death to a serious injury. You might have heard of war veterans with PTSD, too. But a therapy dog’s affection can boost self-esteem and reduce stress levels. However, this works best when paired with traditional evidence-based treatment – not in place of. For example, a dog can ease a patient’s fear of working with a therapist.8
5. Speech Disorder
Often, people with speech disorders have a hard time interacting with others. This can be frustrating, but therapy dogs can cheer them up. They can also promote communication and encourage the practice of speaking.9 In patients with speech problems from brain damage, therapy dogs can also improve both verbal and non-verbal communication.10
While therapy dogs can’t treat these conditions, they can help patients cope better. It can make treatment more bearable, increasing the chances for success. Dogs truly are a man’s best friend!
|↑1||What Is A Therapy Dog? American Kennel Club.|
|↑2||Mood Disorders. Mayo Clinic.|
|↑3||Nepps, Peggy, Charles Stewart, and Stephen Bruckno. “Animal Assisted Therapy: Effects on Stress, Mood, and Pain.” The Journal of Lancaster General Hospital 6.2 (2011): 56-59.|
|↑4||Anxiety Disorders. National Institute of Mental Health.|
|↑5, ↑10||LaFrance, Caroline, Linda J. Garcia, and Julianne Labreche. “The effect of a therapy dog on the communication skills of an adult with aphasia.” Journal of Communication Disorders 40 (2007): 215-224.|
|↑6||Barker, Sandra B. and Kathryn S. Dawson. “The Effects of Animal-Assisted Therapy on Anxiety Ratings of Hospitalized Psychiatric Patients.” Psychiatric Services 49.6 (1998): 797-802.|
|↑7||Benefits of Pet Therapy. Paws for People.|
|↑8||Animal-Assisted Therapy and PTSD. Naval Center for Combat & Operational Stress Control.|
|↑9||Benefits of Pet Therapy. Paws for People.|