Puppy Power

I’m getting a new library dog.

What’s a library dog? you ask. I can’t afford to keep a dog: I can’t afford the food, I can’t afford potential vet bills, and I can’t be relied upon to be healthy enough to look after a (normal) dog. But a library dog is a dog that I get but have to return later. And, SEDA pays ALL the bills. How cool is that!

Well, yes…I have to train him to poo on command and walk on a leash but, you know…

Animals provide unconditional love without judging you for having a medical condition that most people don’t understand. And a new study shows that my part-time library dog may still let me to reap the benefits of pet therapy.

In fact, Dawn Marcus, M.D., the lead author of this study, suggests that the impact of a visit, as short as 10 – 15 minutes, with a therapy-trained dog significantly reduced the pain severity in FM patients. Further, all measures including fatigue, stress level, calmness, and cheerfulness improved, not just pain. Slightly longer visits tended to produce better results, of course, but not all of us can own a dog.

During a 10 – 15 minute period prior to their doctor’s appointment, 84 patients received pet therapy and another 49 FM patients just spent the time in the waiting room. A short questionnaire before and after the therapy service or wait time was used to detect symptom differences.

Animal-assisted therapy is a complementary approach to helping people with a wide range of medical conditions. Pets are often dogs trained to be obedient, calm, and comforting, and visits are typically provided through volunteer services at healthcare settings. Obviously, animals can be stress-relieving, but studies also show they boost the body’s production of pain-fighters and immune system healers.

“Clinically meaningful pain relief was reported in 34% of the fibromyalgia patients after the dog visit versus only 4% in the waiting room controls,” says Marcus. “Effects did not appear to be substantially influenced by co-existing mood disorder symptoms.”

Satisfaction with the dog therapy visit was 92%. Also, the effectiveness of the pet intervention did not depend upon whether the patient viewed themselves as a “dog lover” or someone who prefers cats.

You can get yourself a slice of pet therapy and receive the potential benefits from it, if you don’t already have a pet, by contacting your local Humane Society, animal organization, or veterinarian clinic to find out about programs in your area. You may also volunteer for a while to determine what type of animal best suits you and your pocketbook.