A New Study Reveals That Spending Just 10 Minutes with a Dog Can Help Reduce Pain

Researchers found that emergency room patients reported lower levels of pain and anxiety after spending time with a therapy dog.

therapy dog visiting child in hospital
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Is there anything better than coming home to your dog after a hard day or receiving bad news? The four-legged animals are superb at healing our emotional wounds, but did you know dogs can also help you overcome physical ailments, too? According to a recent published study published in the journal PLOS, spending just 10 minutes with the furry creatures may help reduce paid.

To confirm the longstanding belief that affection from dogs can cure illness, the researchers asked more than 200 patients in the emergency room to report their pain level on a scale from one to 10, with 10 being the highest. The patients were split into two groups—one group spent 10 minutes with a therapy dog and rated their pain levels following playtime while the other was given no intervention for their pain. "There is research showing that pets are an important part of our health in different ways. They motivate us, they get us up, (give us) routines, the human-animal bond," lead study author Colleen Dell told CNN.

The researchers found that participants in the therapy dog team group reported significantly lower pain after the 10 minutes of interaction than those in the control group who received no intervention. Additionally, patients were asked to rate their levels of anxiety, depression, and well-being upon agreeing to participate in the study. The results revealed that the control group had a larger proportion of participants who had no reduction in anxiety compared to the therapy dog team group. For depression and well-being, the finding were the same—the participants that met with the therapy dogs reported an increased well-being and reduction in depression.

Beyond being cuddly and cute, the researchers believe therapy dogs may alleviate pain perception by serving as a distraction from the symptoms patients reported at intake, as well as influence perceptions of pain intensity. The researchers note that in a different study, involving therapy dogs in client care plans following joint replacement surgery improved the patients' pain scores because it served as a distraction from the pain. Additionally, it is believed that petting an animal releases beneficial hormones that help to decrease stress levels.

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