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Doctor Dog! A Therapist, A Healer, A Stress Buster And A Friend

  • Post By: MMansi Seth
  • 07 Jun 2016

Traditional medical therapists are facing tough competition from dogs!  With new researches highlighting the healing power of the dogs, many hospitals have started recruiting dogs as therapists in the West. These hospitals use dogs for quick healing and recovery. Many studies have proved that dog owners are less likely to suffer from mental disorders like depression, stress, tension and bad temper. Pooch owners also face lower risk of  hypertension and high cholesterol level. When a dog licks you, hugs and plays with you, the level of serotonin and dopamine rise, this relaxes you and makes you calm. So being a dog owner is a healthy affair too.

Dogs Ease Trauma
A new research has found that military veterans, who were given pet dogs, showed significant improvement in their PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) symptoms. Dogs proved to be more than just friends for the military veterans struggling from PTSD. Dogs helped in reducing their depression and loneliness, found researchers.  PTSD disorder may develop as a reaction to a terrifying event like trauma, physical violence, natural disaster, war, sexual assault, etc. People with PTSD develop problems like anxiety, nightmares, flashbacks, etc.

The Study
In the study, researchers included 19 US military veterans who were receiving treatment for PTSD, and selected randomly 9 of the veterans for receiving a dog. The other 10 were put in a waiting list for three months. The dogs given to the veterans were not trained service dogs.  

The veterans, who received dogs, showed fewer symptoms of PTSD -lower level of loneliness and depression- according to the research team led by Dr Stephen Stern.  Dr Stern works with the University of Texas Health Science Centre at San Antonio.

Results Not Surprising
The veterans who received dogs said they developed close bonding with the dog, became more active-socially and physically. The dog experience, veterans added, improved overall happiness and became more able to cope up with relationship and stress issues. The two experts of PTSD care said that the findings are not at all surprising. Mayer Bellehsen, who directs the Feinberg Division of the Unified Behavioral Health Center in Bay Shore, NY, said, ``Many clients that we have treated at our centre have extolled the benefits of pets in their recovery.’’

``We know that veterans with PTSD have benefited from equine [horse] therapy too,’’ he added. ``So it makes sense that social interactions with man's best friend might also be helpful,’’ said Dr Jeffrey Borenstein, president of the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation. ``However, more research is needed to show whether dogs are truly effective in helping veterans with PTSD, and understanding the reasons why that is the case,’’ Borenstein added.

The study was first presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association in Atlanta.