By Alane Palmer, ND, CNC, and Annah Gillette

There is nothing like coming home from a long day to your furry 4 legged friend. They are always happy to greet you with excitement, kisses, and snuggles. No matter how bad your day was they are thrilled you came back to them! We should all strive to be the people our dogs think we are. Pet therapy is making its way to help patients better cope with heart problems, cancer, and other health disorders. Trained therapy dogs and handlers are making great progress with patients in only 10 – 15 minutes.

Animal-assisted therapy can significantly reduce pain, anxiety, depression, and fatigue in people with a range of health problems:
Children having dental procedures
People receiving cancer treatment
People in long-term care facilities
People hospitalized with chronic heart failure
Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder

And it’s not only the ill person who reaps the benefits. Family members and friends who sit in on animal visits say they feel better, too. Animals also can be taught to reinforce rehabilitative behaviors in patients, such as throwing a ball or walking. Pet therapy is also being used in non-medical settings, such as universities and community programs, to help people deal with anxiety and stress.

More than a dozen registered therapy dogs are part of Mayo Clinic’s Caring Canines program. They make a regular visit to various hospital departments and even make special visits on request. The dogs are a welcome distraction and help reduce the stress and anxiety that can accompany hospital visits.

Life can be hard for many people, and these tough situations can cause cortisol levels to go high. Health challenges can also cause cortisol to spike which leaves us feeling sick and stressed. Cortisol is the “stress” hormone that gives us that flight or fight feeling. This feeling can happen during the day or when we are trying to sleep.

Dogs are intuitive and pick up on our emotions. If I am having “one of those days” I can feel pretty confident that when I get home my 4 legged friend will cheer me right up and calm down those stress feelings. Love on your 4 legged friends, petting them is good for you too!

Don’t have a dog of your own? Check your local shelters for opportunities to play and love on dogs waiting to be adopted.

Have allergies and concerned a cute 4 legged friend may be a good idea for your stress level but not for your sinuses? No problem, consider a hypoallergenic dog! Yup, consider a poodle, Havanese or Bijon.

Concerned about your stress level and want to get your cortisol tested?
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Medical disclaimer: Our test kits and all tests cannot be used to diagnose, treat or cure any disease. All test results are to be used as educational materials and as a guide to help support your overall health and wellness. Always discuss health concerns with your medical doctor.