Meet Harley, our only team member on 4 legs! Harley is a therapy dog who provides comfort and companionship for our clients. (Photo: Harley visits a school)
Believe it or not, there can be some major health benefits of therapy dogs…
1. Lowering blood pressure
High blood pressure is often associated with rapid heart rate, anxiety, or stressful life. In many cases, such conditions are mainly psychological problems which can be cured by certain therapy methods. It is a fact that petting a dog can create positive atmosphere such as friendship and affection. This type of therapy is often practiced to reduce anxiety that will finally lower blood pressure and heart rate. Therapy dogs are excellent animals; they are calm, obedience, and great friends in life.
2. Lowering levels of Epinephrine and Norepinephrine
Epinephrine and Norepinephrine are both important neurotransmitters which are highly essential hormones in the brain. They are nervous system stimulants; human body needs the proper level of these substances to reduce depression or anxiety. They affect heart rate, blood pressure, glucose level, and many other important factors related to proper functioning of the body. The interaction created between human and therapy dogs is a non-medication cure that helps to lower the levels of epinephrine and norepinephrine.
Most people will agree that petting a good dog will relax the mind which will eventually promote healthier conditions. A scientific study revealed that patients who received visits from therapy dogs experienced greater decrease of norepinephrine and epinephrine compared to patients who only received visits from volunteers.
3. Reducing patient anxiety
Therapy dogs often visit hospitals and other health institutions. As a matter of fact, many hospitals are greatly helped by the animals in reducing patients’ anxieties before certain health examination, for example MRI scanning.
4. Increasing the level of endorphin
One of the greatest benefits of therapy dogs is increasing the level of endorphin. It is a natural substance produced by the body, which works by manipulating the perceptions of pain or stress. Endorphin is a neurotransmitter in the brain and it has very similar functions to opiate drugs.
However, Endorphin does not lead to any type of addiction as commonly found with chemically processed drugs such as morphine or codeine. Petting a therapy dog brings happiness and the feeling of euphoria; such conditions promote better immune response, sexual life, and reduce bad effects of stress.
5. Increasing the level of oxytocin
Other main benefits of therapy dogs are that the animals can boost happiness, improve empathy, stimulate better pair bonding, and promote happier life. Therapy dogs can do all the great things by simply increasing the level of oxytocin; it is the hormone that plays a major role in breastfeeding, sexual reproduction, and other maternal behaviors. Some suggested that the interactions between therapy dogs and human will increase the level of oxytocin.
Both physical and psychological aspects are greatly affected. The best benefits of therapy dogs are that they can simply bring healthier and happier life. The positive interactions affect the releases of many important hormones and neurotransmitters in the brain which promote proper body functions.