Tag: Depression

The Role of Pets in Depression and Bullying in Kids

Another great guest post from Emily Ridgewell!

Both Emily’s previous guest posts were received very well by you. There was Four-legged Gardening, published here last October 24th, and Return To The Movies that came out on the 4th of that same month.

Now Emily writes about something that is never far away from us these days, irrespective of age: depression. And the strongly positive role of pets. Great guest post but first let me re-introduce you to Emily.

Emily Ridgewell is an arts professional and a pet enthusiast from sunny LA. Emily has a creative energy and an aesthetic sense of living, where everything beautiful is worth sharing. She loves her yorkie Olivia and writes original and fun articles on ways to learn and improve your pet-best friend’s life. She finds exciting new things to explore and experience! Don’t forget to connect with her on Twitter: @ridgewell_j

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The Role of Pets in Depression and Bullying in Kids

Kids today are faced with more stress and worry than ever, and childhood depression is on the rise because of it. Recent studies have shown almost 10% of children and adolescents experience depression. One of the main sources of depression among children is being the victim of bullying. Unfortunately, bullying doesn’t discriminate and can happen to boys and girls of any ethnic, racial, religious, or socio-economic background. Lasting effects of being bullied include having low self-esteem and negative self-image, unhappiness at school and difficulty focusing, and trouble establishing healthy relationships with peers.

Interestingly enough, these side effects are found in the bullies as well as their victims. Both are more likely to experience depressive symptoms than those who have never been involved in bullying. They also are more likely to have coexisting mental health issues, such as Oppositional Defiance Disorder, Attention Deficit Disorder, and Clinical Depression and Anxiety. If left unaddressed, these feeling of depression and low self-worth can lead to chronic levels of mental health issues, isolation, and even suicidal ideation.

The first line of defense for parents is arming themselves with strategies to help their children cope with feelings of depression and address them when they first appear. First and foremost, they need to recognize the signs of depression. Then they need to put their heads together and come up with a plan to help their child combat it. Use resources such as your pediatrician, teachers, and school counselors to help develop a long term plan. In the meantime, one of the most effective and immediate ways to help them at home is by getting a pet.

Pets have several benefits that help combat depression and help your child feel happier, more whole, and well connected. First of all, they offer uncomplicated, unconditional love. They don’t say hurtful things, get angry over petty misunderstandings, or hold grudges. They simply love and express joy every time they see their owners. They also offer constant companionship. Having a pet means never having to feel alone or isolated. Additionally, the act of petting a dog or cat (or any other pet, for that matter) offers physical touch and provides comfort, creating a soothing effect and releasing feel-good endorphins in the brain. In turn, this reduces stress and anxiety and helps your child feel calmer and more emotionally balanced.

Further, having a pet means your child will have an added responsibility. Contrary to what you may originally think, a new responsibility provides a distraction and offers a positive focus instead of what’s bothering him.. Plus, he’ll feel good about himself for taking care of something that needs him. He will feel capable, and this bolsters self-esteem and causes a ripple effect in all aspects of her life. It’s a win-win situation.

If you opt for a dog, part of the responsibilities will be walking it. This earns another point in the fight against depression for a couple of reasons. It will make your child be physically active, a well-known tool for negating depressive symptoms. It also is an excellent way to increase social interaction. People are always wanting to touch a puppy, and this leads to a natural conversation when they ask permission. Even if your child is anxious about talking to new people, dogs and pets are automatic ice breakers. Talking about their pet can easily guide the conversation with very little pressure on your child to generate small talk. If they are engaging in conversation, they are less likely to feel isolated and will benefit mentally from the interaction.

Of course, pet ownership isn’t something you should jump into lightly. Be sure to choose the right pet for your child and teach him the right way to handle and care for it. With care and supervision, your child and her pet will become fast friends in no time. While there is no quick fix for depression, owning a pet has multiple benefits which will show their impact quickly. Having an unconditional friend to love can work wonders for building confidence and self-esteem and combatting the negative effects of bullying and depression.

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Emily is spot on. Pets, especially dogs, are the epitome of loving us humans unconditionally and that connection is precious beyond words. Being able to hug or cuddle a dog, frequently as an ad-hoc impulse, is about as comforting a place that us humans, well certainly this human, can get.

Sitting in front of the television of an evening and having a cat snuggle up next to one and start purring is a very close second-best!

Great post from Emily!

Putting a smile on your dog’s face!

Dogs do suffer from depression.

OK, in many cases I’m sure it is because dogs are watching too much television; especially the news!

OK: Only kidding!

Some may be surprised that dogs can express sadness and suffer from depression but it is true.

Only a few days ago there was a bit of a ‘punch up’ between Brandy and Ruby. Ruby was feeding and Brandy approached her food bowl. Ruby gave a short, throaty “stay away from my food” growl and the next instant Brandy had Ruby’s face in his mouth and it was quickly turning into a Grade A dog fight.

Luckily Jean and I were on hand and had the two of them separated within seconds. But it was still sufficient time for Brandy to have drawn blood from a small bite to the side of Ruby’s face.

However, the point I was coming to was that since that incident Ruby has clearly been very depressed and withdrawn.

So on to today’s topic. Recently published on Mother Nature Network.

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Is my dog depressed? The warning signs and solutions

Find out what causes doggy depression and how to fix it.

Jaymi Heimbuch March 30, 2017.

Dogs can get the doldrums. But there are ways to help them come out of it with a wagging tail. (Photo: Iuliubo/Shutterstock)

Yes, dogs can get depressed. Whether or not it’s the same as what humans experience, we may never know since we can’t ask a dog. But there are signs and symptoms from a dog’s behavior that reveal when a dog is in the doldrums. If you’ve noticed a sudden change in your four-legged friend’s behavior and are worried, you may need to see if the change is a clue that your dog needs some psychological TLC.

Common triggers for dog depression

Dogs are creatures of habit, activity and loyalty. A sudden change that affects their world can cause a dog to have a spat of depression. Triggers include:

  • The addition of a new person or pet to the family
  • A sudden drop in attention from an owner or family members
  • A sudden change in the household schedule
  • The loss of an owner or companion
  • Moving to a new home
  • A traumatic injury

Dogs may also suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, during the winter months. Stanley Coren reports in Psychology Today: “Do dogs suffer from SAD? Some data comes from a survey conducted by a leading veterinary charity in the UK. PDSA (The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals) found that approximately 40 percent of dog owners saw a considerable downturn in their pet’s moods during the winter months. In addition, half of the dog owners felt that their dogs slept longer, with around two in five reporting their pets to be less active overall.”

Some dogs may suffer depression simply for not having a job to do. The Guardian notes:

“In the not too distant past, dogs mostly had to work for a living and were probably very often physically and mentally fatigued at the end of the day – which is why we have the expression ‘dog-tired’. Could the stress of being made redundant be the source of this apparent unhappiness? Dog behaviourist Penel Malby told me: ‘Dogs live very differently to the way they used to. Lots more dogs, lots more people, lots more stress for everyone, I think. If you think back even just 50 years, dogs were allowed to roam free every day, socialise with their neighbourhood friends. Now they either go out with a dog walker or go out for an hour if they’re lucky, and the rest of the time is spent at home.'”

The upside is that canine depression usually isn’t permanent, or even necessarily long-lived, and there are ways to combat it to help your dog get back to normal in due time.

What are the warning signs?

Watch for warning signs of depression so you can catch the trouble early and help your dog recover. (Photo: DREIDREIEINS Foto/Shutterstock)

The most common symptoms dogs display when they’re depressed mirror those that humans experience during a depression. They include:

  • Sleeping much more than usual
  • A change in eating habits, including a loss or gain in appetite and in weight
  • A refusal to drink water
  • A lack of interest in usual energetic activities like going for walks or playing
  • Excessive licking of their paws
  • Excessive shedding
  • Become withdrawn or hiding in the house
  • Suddenly showing signs of aggression or anxiety

Unfortunately, these symptoms also occur with a range of other medical issues. A dog might have a change in appetite because of a thyroid or kidney issue, or the dog might not want to go on a walk because of joint pain or arthritis flaring up. So if you notice any changes in your dog’s behavior, the first thing to do is visit the vet to rule out any serious health-related issues before assuming it comes down to depression.

How to help your dog out of a depression

Sometimes time, extra love and a steady routine is all that’s needed. (Photo: Soloviova Liudmyla/Shutterstock)

If you have determined your dog is feeling depressed, there are many things you can do to help them pull out of it.

– Take your dog on more frequent walks during the day to favorite places, allowing them to sniff around and enjoy the scenery. It’s also helpful to do this first thing in the morning to start the day out with a bit of fresh air and energy.

– Try to keep a schedule as much as possible. Dogs are creatures of habit and having a predictable routine can be an enormous source of comfort for a stressed or depressed dog, especially if the trigger for the depression was a sudden change in routine.

– Reward your dog when he shows signs of improved mood or energy. Rather than babying the dog during the down times — which reinforces that behavior — reward him with extra special treats or a favorite toy when he shows a bit of enthusiasm about life to amplify the mood even more.

– Bring home a new toy, such as a squeaker or puzzle toy that stimulates the senses and encourages play.

– If the cause of depression is the loss of a companion, like another household pet, consider adopting another dog that can be a companion. However, only do this if you’ve seriously considered the needs of your household and your depressed dog. It isn’t an option to be taken lightly.

As a last resort, medication could be an option. There are antidepressants for dogs that you can discuss with your veterinarian. However, catching depression early on and trying for behavioral changes first is the best solution. Bonnie Beaver, DVM, notes in a WebMD article, “[I]t can take up to two months for drugs to become effective. But unlike people, who often remain on antidepressants for years, most dogs can get better in six to 12 months and then be taken off the drugs.”

And finally, give it time. As Wag Walking notes, “Be Patient: Sometimes — especially if the issue was a loss of a companion or master — the only thing that will heal a dog’s heart is time. It may be as few as a couple days or as much as a few months, but most dogs will be able to pull themselves out of depression with a little time and understanding.”

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May you, your family and all your wonderful animals have a wall-to-wall happy weekend!

Feeding the correct wolf!

A very heart-touching guest post

Yesterday I used as a sub-heading “I will never, ever tire of the wonderful connections made by this blog!

I wrote that before Sydney sent in a guest post which reached out to me, to Jeannie and, undoubtedly, will reach out to many others. Sydney further validated the power of the wonderful connections that blogging brings.

Here’s how it came about.

Not that long ago, there was a new follower to this place. As is so frequently the case that new follower was also a blogger. Their blog is called very beautifully: Recovery For All Of My Heart. As I always try to do, I went across to leave a ‘thank you’ note. I also read the About page that I want to republish here by way of my introduction to Sydney.

Hello, I am in recovery from an eating disorder, depression and anxiety. The way I got to the best place in my mind is by changing my perspective.

In this blog, I use my new open-mindedness to show the world the beauty I see in hopes that others will then see the beauty in themselves. For me, all it took was to see the beauty in myself, but I needed someone to help me see it first. My hope is to be that person for others.

There is a way to see the good in every piece of you. You can get your mindset to see what others love about you. The proof of everyone’s beauty lies in changing your perspective and this blog hopes to put into light the beauty in everyone that ever existed.

So now to Sydney’s post. (And if you want to understand why I chose the title to this post, then please read right down to the end.)

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Mindfulness and a dog named Bailey

By Sydney R. February 23rd., 2017

Bailey
Bailey

When I was 21 years old, I got a hound boxer puppy named Bailey. Previously, I had a dog my mom and I raised when I was seven; she was named Rachel.

I only speak of Bailey in this post because of a certain situation I want to talk about, but I also wanted to mention how amazing Rachel was too.

Anyway, I raised Bailey to be the sweet almost two-year-old he is today. He is not a normal dog to me. This is because I believe him to be extraordinary (so original for dog owners, I know), and also because I have struggled with my mental health.

I have struggled with depression and he has changed my life for the better. One day last year I was having a very hard time with my depression. I wanted to just lay in bed and quit my job and begin isolating again. I wanted to just sleep and not fight the thoughts and just let them rattle on inside of my mind while I lay there.

I grabbed my dog as he was lying next to me and held onto him ready to remain in my negative thoughts for all eternity. Then something changed: I felt his fur. I felt my cheek against his fur. I heard his sweet little breathing that used to put me to sleep when he laid on my chest when he was a puppy. I was being mindful without even realizing it.

I was aware of everything I was feeling when holding this thing that is so dear to my heart.

Suddenly, all the pain went away. I was reminded of this feeling I can have while holding my dog. I can fight this depression and I can have a wonderful life. If you ever are feeling extremely sad or have any type of negative urges, and this can be about anything, grab your furry little one and just stay in the moment until they pass.

And why is this?

Research has shown that if you look into your dogs eyes, the hormonal response is activated just like the one that is activated when you look at infants. Scientists took blood samples of dogs and their owners before and during time spent petting. The results were that the levels of oxytocin went up in humans during a petting session of a dog and it was at very similar levels of new mothers and their infants.

Even more amazing, dogs had the same levels in their blood as well, showing how happy they are around their owners. During my depression that night, holding onto my dog was not just helping me overcome my sadness, he was having a nice time as well.

Now what I am guessing is that if you are sitting down, petting your dog, but not really paying much attention, your dog will be happy, but your oxytocin levels will not be as high as they could be. When you are mindful and staying in the moment whilst petting your dog, you could be seriously happy, to the point where your oxytocin levels from your dog stops you from ruminating on your negative thoughts.

Don’t just pet your dog when you are upset…make sure you are completely in the moment.

Notice your body and notice what your hands and arms are feeling as you wrap your arms around your dog. Let your hands and all of your arms feel the fur. Use all of your senses. Make sure you hear your dog and do not let your thoughts block out being in the moment. Regular petting of the dog is enjoyable. Mindful petting of a dog could change your life, like it did mine.

Now I will always know that I have something to go to when I feel depressed. This is extremely important because one huge part of depression is hopelessness. This is the feeling that you will always feel depressed.

With a dog, you have hope to get out of those feelings. I know that I have my dog to go to and I will never fear being sad forever again. I always have the mindful petting of Bailey or Rachel that will make the negative thoughts drain away.

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Good people, I am genuinely humbled by both Sydney’s desire to share this with you, and by the magic of having a dog in our life.

So let me close like this.

BBC Television in the UK currently have on their iPlayer site a drama series called Death in Paradise: The programme website is here.

Detective drama series set on a Caribbean island.

In a recent episode there was this profoundly wise observation made by the detective, Jack Mooney, played by Ardal O’Hanlon.

Detective Jack Mooney
Detective Jack Mooney

There are always two wolves deep inside us.

One is a hateful, angry, selfish wolf that doesn’t hesitate to try and do you harm.

The other wolf is a soft, gentle creature that responds to love and always wants to love you back.

So which wolf is in charge?

The wolf we feed!

Footnote:

This came to my ‘inbox’ a short time ago (as of 09:30 Sunday morning):

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Two sides of the pilot’s life!

The life of the commercial pilot; that is.

I have a good understanding of the commercial pilot’s world, both inside and outside of my family. For many years as an active private pilot I held a British Instrument Rating (IR) that allowed me to fly in the commercial airways. Studying for the IR required a good appreciation of the safety culture that was at the root of commercial flying especially surrounding one’s departure and arrival airports.

So when I read a recent item from the Smithsonian Magazine proposing that airline pilots were more depressed than the average American my first reaction was one of disbelief. I forwarded the link to Bob D., an experienced British airline Captain and a good friend for years. Here is that article:

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Think Your Job Is Depressing? Try Being an Airline Pilot

New study suggests pilots are more depressed than the average American

4322816521_2e87d62705_o-jpeg__800x600_q85_cropBy Erin Blakemore
smithsonian.com  December 16, 2016

Being a pilot for a commercial airline has its perks—travel to exotic places, a cool uniform and those breathtaking views of the sky. But that job can come with a side of something much more sobering: depression. As Melissa Healy reports for The Los Angeles Times, the mental health of airline pilots is coming into sharp focus with the revelation that nearly 13 percent of them could be depressed.

A new study of the mental health of commercial airline pilots, recently published in the Journal of Environmental Health, suggests that depression is a major problem for pilots. The first to document mental health for this particular field, the study relied on a 2015 web survey of international pilots that contained a range of questions about their condition over the prior two weeks. Questions included whether they felt like failures, had trouble falling or staying asleep, or felt they were better off dead. (Those questions are part of a depression screening tool called the PHQ-9.) Other questions involved pilots’ flight habits, their use of sleep aids and alcohol, and whether they have been sexually or verbally harassed on the job.

Of the 1,848 pilots who responded to the depression screening portions of the questionnaire, 12.6 percent met the threshold for depression. In addition, 4.1 percent of those respondents reported having suicidal thoughts at some point during the two weeks before taking the survey. The researchers found that pilots who were depressed were also more likely to take sleep aids and report verbal or sexual harassment.

Airline pilot organizations and occupational safety experts assure Healy that airline travel is still safe. But the study continues a conversation about pilot psychology that has been in full swing since a German pilot committed suicide by crashing his plane in 2015—an incident that inspired the current study.

Since then, calls for better statistics on pilot suicide have grown louder. As Carl Bialik notes for FiveThirtyEight, those statistics do exist—and do suggest that the number of actual suicides among pilots are very small. However, limitations in data, the possibility of underreporting, and infrequent data collection all challenge a complete understanding of that facet of pilots’ mental health.

This latest mental health study has its own limitations, including the fact that it relies on self-reporting and a relatively small sample size compared to total pilot numbers worldwide (in the U.S. alone, there are over 70,000 commercial airline pilots). The cause of the reported depression also remains unclear.

But if the depression rate for commercial airline pilots really is nearly 13 percent, it’s almost double the national rate of about seven percent. Though future work is necessary to confirm these results, this study provides an initial glimpse into the health of the people who make the nation’s airlines tick and emphasizes the importance of figuring out ways to improve their mental health and quality of life.

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/airline-pilots-are-really-depressed-180961475/#QojUDlEzhHEsxww4.99
Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12! http://bit.ly/1cGUiGv
Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter

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As the article points out the study contains a number of flaws that really reduce it from an erudite analysis to an eye-catching news item. (Better than reading about politics; that’s for sure!)

I know these are busy times for Captain Bob even without it being Christmas. But if Bob finds time to comment on this study then I will publish it later on.

However, Bob did find a moment to forward me copies of some of the many placards that are a necessary part of the flight deck.

pilot1oooo

pilot2oooo

pilot3Fly safely all you good pilots out there!

Hug a pet and extend your life!

With seventeen pets here at home Jean and I should live forever!

Another Saturday and another gentle post about the power of our wonderful pets. (Oh, and who, as I did, missed the fact that yesterday was not only a Friday the Thirteenth but the third one this year!)

Anyway, back to the plot!

Last Monday, Mother Nature Network published an item about how good pets are for our health. It seemed the perfect item to share with all of you this Saturday.

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11 studies that prove pets are good for your health

Check out the ways your 4-legged friends enhance your physical and emotional health.

By: Sidney Stevens, November 9, 2015.

Pets strengthen our hearts, calm our nerves and a whole lot more. (Photo: Juanedc.com /flickr)
Pets strengthen our hearts, calm our nerves and a whole lot more. (Photo: Juanedc.com /flickr)

If you have pets you already know the joy and love they bring to your life. Now science is confirming just how good they really are for you — both mentally and physically.

How do they help? One theory is that pets boost our oxytocin levels. Also known as the “bonding hormone” or “cuddle chemical,” oxytocin enhances social skills, decreases blood pressure and heart rate, boosts immune function and raises tolerance for pain. It also lowers stress, anger and depression.

PHOTO BREAK: 12 astonishing facts about horses

No surprise then that keeping regular company with a dog or cat (or another beloved beast) appears to offer all these same benefits and more. Read on to discover the many impressive ways a pet can make you healthier, happier and more resilient.

1. Pets alleviate allergies and boost immune function

One of your immune system’s jobs is to identify potentially harmful substances and unleash antibodies to ward off the threat. But sometimes it overreacts and misidentifies harmless stuff as dangerous, causing an allergic reaction. Think red eyes, itchy skin, runny nose and wheezing. You’d think that having pets might trigger allergies by kicking up sneeze-and-wheeze-inducing dander and fur. But it turns out that living with a dog or cat during the first year of life not only cuts your chances of having pet allergies in childhood and later on but also revs up your immune system and lowers your risk of eczema and asthma. In fact, just a brief pet encounter can invigorate your disease-defense system. In one study, petting a dog for only 18 minutes raised immunoglobulin A (IgA) levels in college students’ saliva, a sign of robust immune function.

2. Pets up your fitness quotient

This one applies more to dog owners. If you like walking with your favorite canine, chances are you’re fitter and trimmer than your non-dog-walking counterparts and come closer to meeting recommended physical activity levels. One study of more than 2,000 adults found that regular dog walkers got more exercise and were less likely to be obese than those who didn’t walk a dog. In another study, older dog walkers (ages 71-82) walked faster and longer than non-pooch-walkers, plus they were more mobile at home.

Dog owners who take their canine companions on walks tend to be trimmer and fitter than their fellow dog-less peers. (Photo: AMatveev/Shutterstock)
Dog owners who take their canine companions on walks tend to be trimmer and fitter than their fellow dog-less peers. (Photo: AMatveev/Shutterstock)

3. Pets dial down stress

When stress comes your way, your body goes into fight-or-flight mode, releasing hormones like cortisol to crank out more energy-boosting blood sugar and epinephrine to get your heart and blood pumping. All well and good for our ancestors who needed quick bursts of speed to dodge predatory saber-toothed tigers and stampeding mastodons. But when we live in a constant state of fight-or-flight from ongoing stress at work and the frenetic pace of modern life, these physical changes take their toll on our bodies, including raising our risk of heart disease and other dangerous conditions. Contact with pets seem to counteract this stress response by lowering stress hormones and heart rate. They also lower anxiety and fear levels (psychological responses to stress) and elevate feelings of calmness.

4. Pets boost heart health

Pets shower us with love so it’s not surprising they have a big impact on our love organ: the heart. Turns out time spent with a cherished critter is linked to better cardiovascular health, possibly due to the stress-busting effect mentioned above. Studies show that dog owners have a lower risk of heart disease, including lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Dogs also benefit patients who already have cardiovascular disease. They’re not only four time more likely to be alive after a year if they own a dog, but they’re also more likely to survive a heart attack. And don’t worry, cat owners — feline affection confers a similar effect. One 10-year study found that current and former cat owners were 40 percent less likely to suffer a heart attack and 30 percent less likely to die of other cardiovascular diseases.

5. Make you a social — and date — magnet

Four-legged companions (particularly the canine variety that pull us out of the house for daily walks) help us make more friends and appear more approachable, trustworthy and date-worthy. In one study, people in wheelchairs who had a dog received more smiles and had more conversations with passersby than those without a dog. In another study, college students who were asked to watch videos of two psychotherapists (depicted once with a dog and once without) said they felt more positively toward them when they had a dog and more likely to disclose personal information. And good news for guys: research shows that women are more willing to give out their number to men with a canine buddy.

A dog can make you appear friendlier and more approachable to others. (Photo: CandyBox Images/Shutterstock)
A dog can make you appear friendlier and more approachable to others. (Photo: CandyBox Images/Shutterstock)

6. Provides a social salve for Alzheimer’s patients

Just as non-human pals strengthen our social skills and connection, cats and dogs also offer furry, friendly comfort and social bonding to people suffering from Alzheimer’s and other forms of brain-destroying dementia. Several canine caregiver programs now exist to assist at-home dementia patients with day-to-day tasks, such as fetching medication, reminding them to eat and guiding them home if they’ve wandered off course. Many assisted-living facilities also keep resident pets or offer therapy animal visits to support and stimulate patients. Studies show creature companions can reduce behavioral issues among dementia patients by boosting their moods and raising their nutritional intake.

7. Enhances social skills in kids with autism

One in nearly 70 American kids has autism (also known as autism spectrum disorder, or ASD), a developmental disability that makes it tough to communicate and interact socially. Not surprisingly, animals can also help these kids connect better to others. One study found that youngsters with ASD talked and laughed more, whined and cried less and were more social with peers when guinea pigs were present. A multitude of ASD animal-assisted therapy programs have sprung up in recent years, featuring everything from dogs and dolphins to alpacas, horses and even chickens.

Animal-assisted therapy helps kids with autism and other developmental disabilities learn social skills. (Photo: UCI UC Irvine/flickr)
Animal-assisted therapy helps kids with autism and other developmental disabilities learn social skills. (Photo: UCI UC Irvine/flickr)

8. Dampens depression and boosts mood

Pets keep loneliness and isolation at bay and make us smile. In other words, their creature camaraderie and ability to keep us engaged in daily life (via endearing demands for food, attention and walks) are good recipes for warding off the blues. Research is ongoing, but animal-assisted therapy is proving particularly potent in deterring depression and other mood disorders. Studies show that everyone from older men in a veterans hospital who were exposed to an aviary filled with songbirds to depressed college students who spent time with dogs reported feeling more positive.

9. Defeats PTSD

People haunted by trauma like combat, assault and natural disasters are particularly vulnerable to a mental health condition called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Sure enough, studies show that the unconditional love — and oxytocin boost — of a pet can help remedy the flashbacks, emotional numbness and angry outbursts linked to PTSD. Even better, there are now several programs that pair specially trained service dogs and cats with veterans suffering from PTSD.

10. Fights cancer

Animal-assisted therapy helps cancer patients heal emotionally and physically. Preliminary findings of an on-going clinical trial by the American Humane Association shows that therapy dogs not only erase loneliness, depression and stress in kids fighting cancer, but canines can also motivate them to eat and follow treatment recommendations better — in other words participate more actively in their own healing. Likewise, new research reveals a similar lift in emotional well-being for adults undergoing the physical rigors of cancer treatment. Even more astounding, dogs (with their stellar smelling skills) are now being trained to literally sniff out cancer.

11. Puts the kibosh on pain

Millions live with chronic pain, but animals can soothe some of it away. In one study, 34 percent of patients with the pain disorder fibromyalgia reported pain relief (and a better mood and less fatigue) after visiting for 10-15 minutes with a therapy dog compared to only 4 percent of patients who just sat in a waiting room. In another study, those who had undergone total joint replacement surgery needed 28 percent less pain medication after daily visits from a therapy dog than those who got no canine contact.

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When I was setting this post up and copying across all the many links I was aware that there was a mountain of information out there. You may want to take some time and explore those links. For example, the link to HABRI- Human-Animal Research Initiative looks incredibly interesting. Then there was the link to the work being undertaken by the American Humane Association, that link being to this video that I am presenting here to close off today’s post.

Wherever you are in the world look after yourself and care for all those lovely pets out there. Love them so dearly!

Better than pills

I’m talking about dogs, of course!

 

Perfect!

 

 

Don’t know where today has gone but my plans to write a long, thoughtful piece have evaporated much like the snow that fell over the week-end.

So I am taking the liberty of reproducing a piece on About.com showing the health benefits that come from being close to dogs and cats.

When thinking of ways to reduce stress in life, usually techniques like meditationyoga and journaling come to mind. These are great techniques, to be sure. But getting a new best friend can also have many stress relieving and health benefits. While human friendsprovide great social support and come with some fabulous benefits, this article focuses on the benefits of furry friends: cats and dogs! Research shows that, unless you’re someone who really dislikes animals or is absolutely too busy to care for one properly, pets can provide excellent social support, stress relief and other health benefits—perhaps more than people! Here are more health benefits of pets:

Pets Can Improve Your Mood:
For those who love animals, it’s virtually impossible to stay in a bad mood when a pair of loving puppy eyes meets yours, or when a super-soft cat rubs up against your hand. Research supports the mood-enhancing benefits of pets. A recent study found that men with AIDS were less likely to suffer from depression if they owned a pet. (According to a press release, men with AIDS who did not own a pet were about three times more likely to report symptoms of depression than men who did not have AIDS. But men with AIDS who had pets were only about 50 percent more likely to report symptoms of depression, as compared to men in the study who did not have AIDS.)

Pets Control Blood Pressure Better Than Drugs:
Yes, it’s true. While ACE inhibiting drugs can generally reduce blood pressure, they aren’t as effective on controlling spikes in blood pressure due to stress and tension. However, in a recent study, groups of hypertensive New York stockbrokers who got dogs or cats were found to have lower blood pressure and heart rates than those who didn’t get pets. When they heard of the results, most of those in the non-pet group went out and got pets!

Pets Encourage You To Get Out And Exercise:
Whether we walk our dogs because they need it, or are more likely to enjoy a walk when we have companionship, dog owners do spend more time walking than non-pet owners, at least if we live in an urban setting. Because exercise is good for stress management and overall health, owning a dog can be credited with increasing these benefits.

Pets Can Help With Social Support:
When we’re out walking, having a dog with us can make us more approachable and give people a reason to stop and talk, thereby increasing the number of people we meet, giving us an opportunity to increase our network of friends and acquaintances, which also has great stress management benefits.

Pets Stave Off Loneliness and Provide Unconditional Love:
Pets can be there for you in ways that people can’t. They can offer love and companionship, and can also enjoy comfortable silences, keep secrets and are excellent snugglers. And they could be the best antidote to loneliness. In fact, research shows that nursing home residents reported less loneliness when visited by dogs than when they spent time with other people! All these benefits can reduce the amount of stress people experience in response to feelings of social isolation and lack of social support from people.

Pets Can Reduce Stress—Sometimes More Than People:
While we all know the power of talking about your problems with a good friend who’s also agood listener, recent research shows that spending time with a pet may be even better!Recent research shows that, when conducting a task that’s stressful, people actually experienced less stress when their pets were with them than when a supportive friend or even their spouse was present! (This may be partially due to the fact that pets don’t judge us; they just love us.)

It’s important to realize that owning a pet isn’t for everyone. Pets do come with additional work and responsibility, which can bring its own stress. However, for most people, the benefits of having a pet outweigh the drawbacks. Having a furry best friend can reduce stress in your life and bring you support when times get tough.

Sources:

Evenson RJ, Simon RW. Clarifying the Relationship Between Parenthood and DepressionJournal of Health and Social Behavior. December 2005.

Siegel JM, Angulo FJ, Detels R, Wesch J, Mullen A. AIDS diagnosis and depression in the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study: the ameliorating impact of pet ownership. AIDS Care. April 1999.


Want more? Then go to this article on The Huffington Post published last December