A new study has found that the presence of therapy dogs can reduce the pain levels of emergency room patients.
Researchers determined that as little as 10 minutes with a dog resulted in significant changes in pain as well as changes in anxiety and depression, compared to those who were not visited by therapy dogs. The findings of this study, which were published in the scientific journal PLOS One on 9 March, contributed to important knowledge surrounding the potential value of dogs in improving the overall well-being of patients.
More than 200 emergency room patients were observed at the Royal University Hospital in Saskatchewan, Canada, which was chosen for its “longstanding visiting therapy dog program,” according to the study. The patients were divided into a control group and intervention group — the former were not visited by the dogs while the latter spent time with the dogs. A research assistant collected data from participants before and after the therapy dog visit, using a numeric scale to rank their pain from 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest level of pain.
After the study was conducted, participants in the therapy dog team group rated pain “significantly lower than those in the control group,” researchers reported. There was also no difference in pain levels between men and women in the intervention group. “These findings suggest that the therapy dog intervention had a positive effect on reducing participant pain,” the study found.
“There is research showing that pets are an important part of our health in different ways,” lead study author Colleen Dell told CNN. Dell is the research chair at One Health and Wellness and professor at the University of Saskatchewan. “They motivate us, they get us up, (give us) routines, the human-animal bond.”
Many studies have previously been conducted on the emotional capacity of dogs. Researchers from the University of Milan recently found that dogs show “key signs of grief” following the death of another dog in the same household. Another study revealed that dogs are able to identify their owners solely through their voice.