Thursday, February 6, 2014

Animals Ease Patients’ Pain

Animal Assisted TherapyVisiting a doctor’s office can be stressful. Very often, patients don’t know what to expect. They may be in pain or they may anticipate having to endure painful medical procedures.
Fortunately, scientists are finding natural ways to provide comfort.
New research shows that dogs can be used to manage pain. Several medical professionals conducted this research for a study entitled, Animal-Assisted Therapy at an Outpatient Pain Management Clinic.
The doctors and researchers who wrote the study evaluated the mental and physical effects that a wheaten terrier would have on 286 patients at a pain clinic.
“Clinically meaningful pain relief was achieved by 22.6% of patients visiting with the therapy dog vs. 3.6% completing the waiting room survey,” the authors concluded in the published results.
This relief was even greater in study participants suffering from anxiety. 22.8% of these patients experienced pain relief after interacting with the therapy dog, Wheatie, for several minutes, the authors noted.
More research is being done to develop guidelines for animal-assisted therapy (AAT). In April 2012, the American Humane Association and Pfizer Animal Health announced that they were conducting a joint study on how AAT could benefit pediatric cancer patients.
Both organizations published literature showing that the study would be comprised of three phases and would culminate in a 12-18 month clinical trial.
Though the results of this clinical trial may prove to be historical, the use of animal-assisted therapy isn’t new.
In the Handbook on Animal-Assisted Therapy: Theoretical Foundations and Guidelines for Practice, Professor Stanley Coren notes that, in the 19th century, Florence Nightingale suggested using small pets for depression.
Coren adds that Dr. Charles Mayo, co-founder of the Mayo Clinic, started using a dog for patients after seeing how much a dog improved the mood of a wounded soldier during World War II.