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How dogs help to heal people with serious illnesses

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Dogs cannot miss their daily walk and thus ensure that owners get their own quota of exercise that keeps them healthy. Recent research has shown that dogs play a much more significant role in helping their owners (and others) cope with serious illnesses.

The Research

Several studies conducted independently and in different parts of the world come back to the same result. That dogs do help people recover from serious illnesses. One study showed that people with dogs displayed a better survival rate post a heart attack as compared to non dog owners. In a separate study, it was concluded that amongst the psychological factors of significance in aiding recovery of heart patients, dog ownership is the most important factor, ranked higher than spouse and family support. A third study published in the British Journal of Health Psychology states very clearly that people who own dogs have lower cholesterol and blood pressure and are less prone to minor ailments like headaches, stress etc

Dogs in Diagnosis

The strong olfactory sense in dogs has been long used for sniffing explosives and criminals. Recently its potential in serving as an early diagnostic tool for serious illnesses is being explored. Already dogs are being used to warn people of oncoming epileptic seizures, heart attack or low blood sugar. The body, being a massive store house of chemicals, any change from regular healthy condition is associated with changes in body chemicals that may result in a particular smell emanating from the patients. Dogs can sense this smell and accordingly signal the patient. So the patients are better prepared to deal with the situation, like say, an epileptic seizure. Over a period of time, such patients gain confidence as they are now in control of their condition (due to the early warning) and this helps significantly in improving their quality of life. Researchers are paying particular attention to see if dogs can help in early detection of cancer, where early diagnosis helps in effecting a complete cure.

Service Dogs

Service dogs are dogs trained to help their owners in specific medical emergencies. For instance, they can be trained to bark for help, and remind patients to take their medication on time. They use their keen sense of hearing to alert individuals to door bells or even traffic on the road. They can assist in evacuation from the place in case of an emergency like smoke or chemical fumes, which they are trained to detect. Service dogs are trained to detect changes in the emotional make up of their owners and when they sense that something is amiss, they try and pacify the individuals by nuzzling up against them or offering some other sort of calming behavior.

Patients suffering from depression and other psychiatric disorders also benefit from owning a dog. The dog’s unconditional love for them and the opportunity the dog provides for loving and interacting with another living creature helps boost their confidence for social interactions and alleviates depression considerably.

It has been proven without doubt that dogs help you recover from serious illness. Bur for the dog all of this is over and above the simple fact that he loves you and cares for you. That never changes, whatever the case.

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