Dogs play a positive role in our general health maintenance - study

A study that examined the effect of dogs on patients in emergency rooms found what every dog lover knows. Dogs are the perfect remedy for some pains.

Dog (photo credit: PIXABAY)
(photo credit: PIXABAY)

In case you didn't know yet, dogs are the best friends people can have. A new study found that just 10 minutes with a four-legged friend helped patients in an ER who were in great pain. The results support what dog lovers everywhere have long suspected. Dog love cures any ailment, and also provides some optimism for patients and medical staff dealing with routine stress but especially in the last two years of the pandemic.

Lead author Colleen Del, research chair at One Health and Wellness and a professor at the University of Saskatchewan, says that studies show that pets are an important part of our health in different ways. They motivate us, they ground us, give us a routine when we need to feed and walk them, and of course, there’s a connection between man and animal.  But in the current study they sought to examine something else — How a dog affects the levels of physical pain that people experience.

The study, published in the journal PLOS One, asked more than 200 patients in an ER to report their pain level on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being the highest pain level). The control group had no intervention for their pain, whereas the participants in the second group spent 10 minutes with a treatment dog. The results showed that those who sat with a dog reported less pain.

Del said she hopes this study will put an end to the question of whether care dogs are really helpful in a medical context, and get people to start asking how they help and how to better integrate them with health care teams. “Emergency services teams can experience moral distress resulting from their inability to meet their expectations for optimal care. The presence of a care dog not only has the benefits of supporting the patient experience, but it also serves as a comfort to caregivers," the researchers said.

 So what is it about dogs that helps us so much and soothes?

First and foremost, spending time with a creature that makes you happy and doesn’t cancel out your emotions is likely to make you feel better. Other studies have shown that dogs reduce stress, anxiety, depression, relieve loneliness, encourage exercise and improve their owners' overall health.

 Dog illustrative (credit: FLICKR) Dog illustrative (credit: FLICKR)

Also, evidence suggests that exposure to dogs produces a mild level of stress that helps infants develop adequate coping mechanisms for managing anxiety and threat, and people with dogs tend to have lower blood pressure and a lower risk of heart disease. The bottom line of one of the researchers: "Only playing with dogs alone has been shown to raise oxytocin and dopamine, and create positive emotions."