Healthy Benefits of the Human-Animal BondPublished March 5, 2012
This assertion, verified by many scientific studies and reports, certainly explains the increased use of animals such as cats and dogs, but also birds, fish and horses, in hospitals, mental institutions, schools, nursing homes and jails.
Take Lucy, for example, recently crowned “World’s Smallest Working Dog” by the Guinness Book of World Records. Lucy works as a therapy dog visiting institutions such as those listed above bringing joy, love and compassion to the less fortunate.
The overwhelmingly positive effect that dogs like Lucy have on the ill has spurred a new field of medical research exploring the human-animal bond, especially in terms of healing. Although animals have been used in medical settings for over a century, it was not until the 1970s that researchers began to explore the science behind the bond between animals and humans who are unwell.
In 1980, the National Institute of Health (NIH) published one of their earliest studies involving animals and patients. According to the report, heart attack patients who owned pets tended to live longer than those who did not. Similarly, another study revealed that simply petting your own dog can lower blood pressure.
Dogs and cats are not the only therapeutic animals, however.
Horses have become increasingly popular in providing therapy to people with disabilities. The Northern Virginia Therapeutic Riding Program (NVTRP), for example, is a not for profit organization providing therapy through horseback riding. According to their website, NVTRP isdedicated to enriching the lives of children and adults with disabilities, youth-at-risk, and veterans through the challenging, physically-active sport of horseback riding.”
Yet, are humans the only beneficiaries of the animal therapy? That is exactly what a new NIH study is looking to find out. The new program ran through the National Institution for Child Health and Human Development, “offers scientists research grants to study the impact of animals on child development; in physical and psychological therapeutic treatments, and on the effects of animals on public health, including their ability to reduce or prevent disease,” NPR reports.
Although the benefits humans reap from animals seems obvious, the new study seeks to solidify this assertion within the realm of academic research.
It is only a matter of time until the knowledge that every pet owner possesses in regards to the effects of animals on the human condition becomes a scientific fact.
What do you think about the new medical research studies? Share your thoughts in a comment below.