It took a long time to put himself back together: plus some therapy, another job and changes to his family life. But the key factor, he says only half-jokingly, was a small Greek rescue dog called Maria. “Taking her out for walks, getting out into fresh air, just putting one foot in front of the other, that lifts your spirits. And then there’s nothing like having a dog curled up beside you, even when you feel absolutely miserable. She’ll check my face anxiously, as if she knows something is wrong. And that makes me smile – and that somehow makes you feel better. There is just something magic about dogs. Honestly, she got me through.”
W hat is it about animals? As the bad news about the coronavirus continues, “send me dogs and cats” has become a regular cry on social media, an easy-to-grasp shorthand for “I feel terrible, cheer me up”. The response is always the same: a torrent of pictures of animals doing daft things – but somehow it has a magical, calming effect.
Patient Rayssa plays with Troia, a therapeutically trained dog, during a therapy session in Hospital Infantil Sabará in Sāo Paulo, Brazil.
Photograph: Nacho Doce/Reuters
The importance of social recognition is increasingly acknowledged for the role it plays in helping us form networks. We now understand that healthy social bonds can play a key role in mental health; without them, we become lonely, depressed and physically unwell. And pets, it seems, can fulfil that role. Academic and psychologist June McNicholas points out that pets can be a lifeline for socially isolated people.
A woman caresses a therapy dog in Markhot Ferenc hospital, Hungary. Photograph: Péter Komka/EPA-EFE
While it’s true that people with pets often experience greater health benefits than those without, a pet doesn’t necessarily have to be a dog or a cat. A rabbit could be ideal if you’re allergic to other animals or have limited space but still want a furry friend to snuggle with. Birds can encourage social interaction and help keep your mind sharp if you’re an older adult. Snakes, lizards, and other reptiles can make for exotic companions. Even watching fish in an aquarium can help reduce muscle tension and lower your pulse rate.
Rescue groups try to find suitable homes for unwanted or abandoned dogs, cats, and other pets, many taken from shelters where they would otherwise have been euthanized. Volunteers usually take care of the animals until they can find a permanent home. This means that rescuers are often very familiar with a pet’s personality and can help advise you on whether the pet would make a good match for your needs.
The benefits of pets
Some children with autism or other learning difficulties are better able to interact with pets than people. Autistic children often rely on nonverbal cues to communicate, just as animals do. And learning to first connect with a pet may even help an autistic child in their interactions with people.
Pets require responsibility. Most dogs, regardless of size and breed, are capable of inflicting injury on people if not handled responsibly by their owners. Even cats can scratch or bite. Pet owners need to be alert to any danger, especially around children.
As part of the disease, Alzheimer’s patients may exhibit a variety of behavioral problems, many related to an inability to deal with stress.
The AKC’s Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr. Jerry Klein, explains what CBD oil is, what it does for dogs, and its safety concerns and potential side effects.
Learn more about the CBD study funded by the Canine Health Foundation.
What Is CBD Oil?
The AKC Canine Health Foundation (CHF) is sponsoring a study through the Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences to evaluate the use of CBD in treatment-resistant epileptic dogs. The CHF hopes that this will be the first study to gain scientific data on the use of CBD in dogs with this condition.
The safety and risks of using CBD for dogs have not yet been researched. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved CBD and has not issued a dosing chart. Therefore, we do not know what size dosage would be toxic. Any medication or supplement carries the risk of a reaction. It is always advisable, when giving your dog something new, to start out with small amounts and then closely monitor the effects. And always check with your veterinarian first.
While there’s no definitive scientific data on using CBD to treat dogs, there’s anecdotal evidence from dog owners suggesting it can treat pain, especially neuropathic pain, as well as helping to control seizures.