Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Dogs Can Improve Your Health!

Dogs truly are man’s best friend! According to Dr. Dawn Marcus, a neurologist and professor at the University of Pittsburgh, spending time with our pets, and pet therapy dogs can have a significant positive impact on our health.
Dawn was a guest on my March 30/12 PAWsitive Radio Show, and shared that therapy dogs are often placed in schools, reading programs, older people, in hospitals and group homes. One of Dawn’s dogs volunteers as a pet therapy dog in a children’s reading program, and her other dog volunteers doing hospital visits. Like our dog Toby, her dog benefitted from the variety of visiting with people, moving about the unit, and having different activities. Therapy dogs can have a significant impact on the people they visit; Dawn shared a beautiful example of a child in the reading program who demonstrated huge improvements after reading to Dawn’s therapy dog.
There are health benefits that can result from relationships and visitation with dogs. Dawn’s research in outpatient clinics (with patients and staff) involved having outpatients visiting during the wait time with a therapy dog. The research indicated that attitudes improved; there was less stress during the waiting times (for staff, patients and those travelling with the patient).  
Dawn’s research also demonstrates that interactions and visits with therapy dogs can positively impact patients dealing with chronic pain. For example, ¼ of patients had a clinically meaningful drop in pain as a result of spending a short time visiting with the therapy dog.  The study also showed a 40% anxiety drop, and a significant drop in fatigue and stress. Dawn provides the science behind the terrific stories about pet therapy dogs.
Also important to note is the significant drop in stress hormones, the increase in the body’s natural pain killer endorphins, and improvements in your immune system --- all from petting  a therapy dog. It truly is a therapeutic intervention.  The work of therapy dogs and their owners and handlers is making a difference!
Pets are great connectors. You would not believe the people we have met because of our dog Toby. Dawn talked about the same experience with her dogs. Pets help us create routines, consistency and get us up, out and moving about.
You can listen to the great conversation with Dawn Marcus at:
You can follow her work with therapy dogs at her blog, www.FitAsFido.com

Check out Dawn’s fabulous book Fit As Fido:
Toby’s (our dog) pet therapy experience is chronicled in his book On Toby’s Terms:
Learn more about our legacy project, A Million Acts of Kindness – Toby’s Global Mission at www.ontobysterms.com

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