A new study finds that time spent with our four-legged friends may offer medicinal benefits.
Advertisement
woman in hospital bed hugging a golden retriever therapy dog
Credit: monkeybusinessimages / Getty

Ask any dog parent if time with their pup can cure any ailment, and you would probably be met with a resounding, "Yes!" Most dog parents claim that time with your pooch can help cure most ailments. But a new study is putting scientific evidence behind this assertion.

In the study, Canadian researchers found that spending just 10 minutes with a therapy dog reduced levels of pain, anxiety, and depression and increased feelings of well-being in patients in the emergency department experiencing pain.

In the study, participants visited by therapy dogs reported a:

  • 43% reduction in pain
  • 48% reduction in anxiety
  • 46% reduction in depression
  • 41% improvement in well-being

To conduct the study, the researchers asked 97 ED patients to rate their levels of pain, depression, anxiety, and sense of well-being on 11-point rating scales (with 1 being the lowest and 11 being the highest) before time with a therapy dog, immediately after, and then 20 minutes after. The patient's heart rate and blood pressure were also measured at these intervals.

In the control group, these same factors were evaluated and recorded for 101 ED patients that weren't visited by a therapy dog at two separate intervals 30 minutes apart. The researchers state there were no statistically significant differences in the gender, age, or ethnicity of experimental and control group participants.

There were several limitations to the study, so we can't say with certainty yet whether these findings are valid. For starters, the researchers didn't account separately for the impact of the therapy dogs and their handlers. Data used in the study were also only collected in one hospital setting and did not factor in information about medications patients took that could have impacted pain levels or whether people experienced chronic pain or not.

Yet despite these limitations, Jessica Chubak, senior investigator with the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute who was not involved in the study, wrote in an email to CNN that the results of the study are promising. "Our current understanding of the effects of therapy dog visits in emergency department settings is fairly limited," she wrote. "So, it is particularly important to have more research in this area."