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4 Ways Therapy Dogs Help People

by DrPrem Jagyasi
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Therapy dogs offer companionship and comfort to their owners, but owning a therapy dog — or cat — has several benefits. These pets help people with various conditions cope with problems including stress, depression, and anxiety. Discover how owning a therapy pet can benefit you.

Elevates Your Mood

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Therapy animals have a way of lifting your spirits when needed. It’s not just your imagination either. Spending time with your furry friend causes your body to react physically — it alters your brain’s normal chemical production. In fact, you only have to spend 30 minutes with a dog for your brain to trigger chemicals linked to happiness. This is one of the main reasons therapy animals are often used to treat people suffering from depression.

It’s common for people with depression to avoid contact with the outside world. Owning a dog helps to break that cycle by providing you with comfort, companionship, and a sense of purpose — all things needed to maintain a happy, healthy lifestyle.

Cat lovers don’t need to convert to take advantage of the benefits that come with owning a therapy pet. Like dogs, cats also help ease cases of the blues. Kitty owners are typically less lonely and have more confidence than people who don’t own cats because cuddling with cats prompts your body to unleash oxytocin — the “love” hormone.

Relieves Stress

Did you know that spending time with a dog lowers your stress levels? In fact, studies have shown that people who bring their dogs to work have lower stress levels throughout the day than people who worked without canine companionship.

In addition to lowering your body’s levels of cortisol — the stress hormone — research has indicated that petting a dog or cat actually lowers your blood pressure. Dr. Alan M. Beck — director of the Center for Human-Animal Bond at the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine — and his colleagues conducted studies that not only showed petting an animal lowers a person’s blood pressure, but simply looking at an animal was enough. And it isn’t only dogs and cats that have a positive effect on one’s blood pressure — watching fish swim in an aquarium yielded the same results.

Encourages Exercise

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Owning a therapy dog, especially one that’s active encourages their owners to get into shape. Of course, you’re more likely to get up and moving when you need to walk your dog, but it often affects people in other ways too. Dog owners who regularly take their beloved pets on walks are more likely to participate in more vigorous workouts that the body needs. Also, taking walks with your dog instead of walking by yourself opens you up to more casual social interactions — which is great for anyone battling depression and anxiety.

Eases Chronic Pain

Many people don’t realize that owning a pet can help ease chronic pain, but it doesn’t help in the same way as medication or natural remedies. When you own a therapy dog, it gives you a reason to get up and moving in the morning. When combined with the added exercise dog owners get from walking, it’s enough extra movement to relieve some types of body pain.

Additionally, with proper obedience and agility training, therapy dogs learn to pick up queues to determine what their owners need. For example, a simple hand gesture could let your dog know that you need help picking something up, which saves you from having to bend down while you’re in pain.

The fact is, when you own a pet, your pet takes as much care of you as you do him or her. Letting a therapy animal into your life helps you battle any problems with depression, anxiety, stress, or chronic pain you may be facing daily and encourages you to get the exercise your body needs to remain healthy.

Article Submitted By Community Writer

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