Friday, 26 December 2014

20 Reasons You Absolutely Need A Dog In Your Life!

1. Dogs empathize with human pain 

Goldsmiths College released a study that showed more dogs will approach someone who’s crying or in distress than someone who is not. This demonstrates that dogs are empathetic and are eager to help comfort humans in pain. 

2. Dogs can detect cancer

Due to their incredible sense of smell, dogs have shown anywhere from 70 to 99% accuracy (depending on the study) when tasked with detecting lung cancer in a nearby patient.

3. Dogs reduce work stress

The International Journal of Workplace Health Management has discovered that workers who bring their dog to their office have less stress and are happier with their job, simply because the dog is hanging around.

4. Dogs detect seizures before they happen

Recent research has shown certain dogs are able to warn seizure patients that they’re going to experience an attack, sometimes hours before it happens. Nobody yet knows how they do it, or why only certain dogs can do it. They also can’t be trained to do it, so if you feel you need a seizure-sniffing dog, you need to make sure you have yourself a natural.

5. Dogs help babies stay healthy by being dirty

A recent study has shown that babies with dogs are actually healthier than those without dogs, reporting fewer coughs, runny noses, and ear infections. The reason, researchers believe, is because dogs will track in dirt, mud, and other germ-infested bits of earth, thereby boosting the child’s immune system.

6. Dogs help you stay in shape

A study from the University Of London has determined that kids with dogs are more active, and exercise more often, than kids without dogs. After all, it’s a lot more fun and interesting to go jogging with your dog than alone.

7. Dogs detect low blood sugar

That sense of smell can do even more; dogs can also detect low blood sugar in their master. They will either alert the person that the sugar has dropped or, if a diabetic attack has already occurred, will bark and bark and bark in an attempt to alert somebody to come help, thus working to save the diabetic’s life.

Food allergies are nothing to sneeze at; luckily, dogs have been shown they can be trained to detect certain allergens. So if you’re allergic to peanut butter, the dog will alert you if it detects anything with the scent of peanut in the room. Same with any other thing that may harm you or a loved one.

9. Dogs help you be more social

The British Medical Journal has concluded that dogs act as “social catalysts,” who help people get out more, approach others more easily, and overall reduce isolation. This is actually more important than the basic companionship that dogs provide, as human social support is more beneficial to human health.

Simply by being themselves, dogs have been shown to help reduce PTSD among soldiers. In addition to providing the usual doggie companionship, they have been shown to help sufferers come out of their shells, be less numb and angry, and improve their social life as well.

11. Dogs help prevent eczema in kids

In a surprising twist, it might actually be beneficial to get a dog for your baby, even if they’re allergic. Studies have shown that children under the age of one who live with a dog are much less likely to develop the chronic, and annoying, skin condition called eczema.

12. Dogs heal wounds simply by kissing you

A dog kissing you obviously feels wonderful, but it might actually have physical benefits too. Studies have shown that saliva, both the human and doggie variety, can help stimulate nerves and muscles, and get oxygen moving again, which is the secret ingredient in helping wounds to heal. In short, “licking your wounds” is not just a cliche after all.

13. Dogs make their elderly owners go to the doctor less

Almost certainly due to the positive vibes and good feelings that dogs bring out of their masters, even in the worst of times, studies have found that older people who own dogs average at least one less doctor appointment per year than those who do not.

14. Dogs reduce your risk of heart problems

Preliminary studies by the American Heart Association are revealing that dog owners have less risk of heart disease than those without dogs. The reasons given are the exercise that owners get when walking their dogs, plus the presence of the dog helps the owner deal with stress better. The evidence is mostly anecdotal right now, but dog owners know that it’s all true.

15. Dogs aid with depression

Day-to-day depression, or even more serious chronic depression, is easier to handle with the love of a dog, studies show. Simply by having them around, and knowing that even at our worst, somebody loves us unconditionally and is eager to see us happy again, we’re given a reason to get up and keep going.

16. Dogs help college kids get through finals week

Finals Week sucks; just ask any stressed-out college student, or anyone who’s ever been one. Many schools, thankfully, have found a way to help: dogs. Programs that provide therapy dogs to campuses for overworked students to pet, play with, or just plain cuddle with, have proven successful in calming down students and (hopefully) improving their test scores. 

17. Dogs comfort children with autism

Autistic children often find the world very stressful, in ways that the non-autistic can’t understand. Luckily, a dog can. Studies are showing that bringing a therapy dog into an autistic household helps to reduce the amount of cortisol (a stress hormone) in the autistic child’s body. This both calms the child down and shows him that he has a friend.

18. Dogs help prevent bullying

Bullying has been a huge problem for a long time, and people are finally doing something about it. Dogs, too. Experimental programs have been launched that bring dogs into schools to promote empathy, with the lesson that you shouldn’t treat people badly, because you wouldn’t do it to a dog. Thus far, kids have been able to make the connection, which will hopefully continue to be the case.

19. Dogs help people with Fibromyalgia stay warm

Fibromyalgia is a debilitating disease that can leave its victim in constant pain. Studies have shown that the Xolo dog’s body temperature can be used as a kind of therapeutic heating pad, due to it being a hairless species. Of course, unlike heating pads, a Xolo will bond with you, snuggle with you and keep you warm as long as you need, leading to both external comfort and internal happiness.

20. Dogs help people with dementia live a better life

Dogs have shown that they can help keep dementia sufferers on schedule, reminding them when its time for medicine and when to see the doctor. In addition, when the owner experiences frustration over the state of their mind, the “dementia dog” is right there to support them, comfort them, and remind them that someone’s always there for them.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

What is Animal Assisted Therapy?

Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) programs help humans overcome, or at least cope with, health problems (both physical and emotional). Dr. Boris Levinson, a US child psychologist, is credited with discovering AAT in the 1960s.
At that time, he brought his dog Jingles with him to visit a withdrawn child and found he was able to gain the boy’s trust, thanks to Jingles’ presence. As Dr. Levinson stated:1
“A pet is an island of sanity in what appears to be an insane world. Friendship retains its traditional values and securities in one’s relationship with one’s pet. Whether a dog, cat, bird, fish, turtle, or what have you, one can rely upon the fact that one’s pet will always remain a faithful, intimate, non-competitive friend, regardless of the good or ill fortune life brings us.”
While AAT was met with criticism in the ‘60s, it slowly gained a following and today is commonly used in health care settings. For instance, 60% of hospice-care providers that offer complementary and alternative treatments offer animal-assisted therapy to their patients.2

The Many Talents of Therapy Animals
AAT can take many forms. It may involve patients caring for an animal, as is often the case in equine therapy, or it can involve animals brought into health care settings to interact with patients individually or in groups. For instance, encouraging research to date has shown that equine therapy (interaction with horses) improves symptoms in Alzheimer’s patients.3
Other research has found adults recovering from joint-replacement therapy who used AAT (canine therapy, in this case) used 50% less pain medication.4 It’s truly remarkable how many different health complaints seem to benefit from animal assisted therapy.
According to Pet Partners, a non-profit organization that provides animal-assisted interactions, “AAT is designed to promote improvement in human physical, social, emotional, and/or cognitive functioning.”5 

For example, AAT programs may include any of the following goals:

Improve post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)Improve standing balanceIncrease exercise
Improve wheelchair skillsIncrease attention skillsImprove fine motor skills
Increase verbal interactionsAid in long- or short-term memoryIncrease vocabulary
Increase self-esteemReduce anxietyReduce loneliness
Improve knowledge of concepts such as size, color, etc.Develop leisure and recreation skillsImprove willingness to be involved in group activities

Sources and References

  • Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) can help people cope with and overcome physical and emotional challenges
  • AAT is used for motivation, mental health, reducing loneliness and anxiety, improving fine motor skills and verbal interactions, and much more
  • Animals bring comfort and care to patients with a wide array of health problems, from Alzheimer’s and autism to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and recovery from surgery

Eight Amazing Therapy Animals (not just dogs!)

While dogs and cats are the most commonly involved animals, AAT can also include horses, rabbits, hedgehogs, llamas, pigs, skunks, snakes, and even spiders (including tarantulas, which have been used for therapy in people with autism). Here are eight examples of therapy animals and the lives they’ve touched.

1. Rojo the Therapy Llama and Napoleon the Therapy Alpaca

Rojo and Napoleon have made more than 800 therapy visits to hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, and schools near their home in Vancouver, Washington. Only 14 llamas are registered as therapy animals in the US.

2. Oscar the Therapy Cat

The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) reported the story of Oscar, a cat that resided at the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, Rhode Island and could predict when residents were about to die. Oscar would curl up next to patients within hours of their deaths, not budging until they had passed. According to NEJM:

“His mere presence at the bedside is viewed by physicians and nursing home staff as an almost absolute indicator of impending death, allowing staff members to adequately notify families. Oscar has also provided companionship to those who would otherwise have died alone. For his work, he is highly regarded by the physicians and staff at Steere House and by the families of the residents whom he serves.”

3. Spartacus, Akita Therapy Dog

Spartacus was among the first on scene after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newton, Connecticut, and he remained there for months afterward offering support to students, responders, and staff.

Spartacus was so helpful in the wake of tragedy that Connecticut government officials passed a law mandating that crisis victims have access to therapy dogs within 24 hours.

4. Hector, Pit Bull Therapy Dog

Hector is one of the pit bulls rescued from Michael Vick’s dogfighting operation in 2007. He is now a trained therapy dog who visits schools to help children learn about compassion toward animals.

5. Lexy, German Shepard Therapy Dog

Lexy supports members of the military at Fort Bragg, including those with post-war stress and trauma. She’s earned the rank of lieutenant colonel.

6. Buttercup, Therapy Pig

Buttercup is a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig who visits special-needs kids in San Francisco schools, alongside speech pathologist Lois Brady. Together, the team helps children with autism to improve social skills, and one severely autistic boy is said to have spoken to his classmates for the first time after a visit with Buttercup.

7. Elsa, Pit Bull Therapy Dog

Elsa was abused and neglected before she was rescued by a new owner who registered her for a pet visitation program. Elsa, whose own back legs are barely functional, is fitted with a special cart that allows her to make visits with patients in long-term care along with those suffering from spinal cord injuries.

8. Xander, Pug Therapy Dog

Xander had an accident that required both of his eyes to be removed, but that doesn’t stop him from bringing joy and love to others, including victims of child abuse.

In Memory of Blackie

Fay Karamanakis tells the story of her beloved Labrador-cross Blackie, who was shot dead six hours after saving her family’s life by a police officer. The dog was one of hundreds shot by Government authorities in a bid to control roaming packs through the northern suburbs and control the spread of disease. Blackie was one of the first to go.

Fay still finds it hard to talk about that day, but her recall is vivid. As the weather intensified, Blackie became more frantic and began scratching the door and yelping.

“When I went to get a towel to dry him up he runs straight to the baby’s bedroom,” Fay says. “He grabbed the baby’s sheets and pulled them and the baby knocked her head on the metal cot and started screaming. I grabbed the baby and I thought ‘you naughty dog, how could you do this?’ My baby was blue from the impact and crying.”

As Fay comforted the baby, Blackie ran to 3yr old Katie’s room next door and grabbed her by the pyjamas, pulling her onto the floorboards where she landed heavily. Fay thought Blackie had gone mad.

“I remember holding both screaming kids in my arms thinking this stupid dog was going to make me give the baby measles ... I was crying with the kids,” she says. 

But Blackie began trying to nudge the family out the front door: “this dog is telling us to go, so we went downstairs.”

They took shelter in the granny flat below the elevated house with another couple. Within seconds, the top of the house, where they had been only moments earlier, began to peel away.

“The entire house collapsed from above and fell onto one side,” Fay says. “When the eye came over us we thought it was over so we kissed and hugged, but minutes later it started again and the big noise – well it was twice as bad. This time missiles were going everywhere. We accepted we were going to die ... the fear was that bad.”

Darwin had been absolutely obliterated. And there was Blackie, who after sheltering under a car all night raced straight to the family. He had not wanted to come into the granny flat, but he was fine.

Police helped the family slowly drive the short distance to the school.“As I walked into the shelter I heard a bang. I turn around to see what the bang was and I saw my dog had been shot … that was devastating.. devastating because he had saved our lives. There was no pre-warning; they thought he was a stray because he had run after the car.”

“I still miss him and feel upset when I think about him. He saved our lives.”
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