The Science Behind Animal-Assisted Therapy
- 9.7k Downloads
Animal-assisted therapy is a complementary medicine intervention, typically utilizing dogs trained to be obedient, calm, and comforting. Several studies have reported significant pain relief after participating in therapy dog visits. Objective reports of reduced pain and pain-related symptoms are supported by studies measuring decreased catecholamines and increased endorphins in humans receiving friendly dog visits. Mirror neuron activity and disease-perception through olfactory ability in dogs may also play important roles in helping dogs connect with humans during therapeutic encounters. This review will explore a variety of possible theories that may explain the therapeutic benefits that occur during therapy dog visits.
KeywordsCatecholamines Electronic nose Empathy Endorphin Mirror neurons Therapy dog
Dr. Dawn Marcus reported no potential conflicts of interest relevant to this article.
Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance
- 2.Kniseley JS, Barker SB, Barker RT. Research on benefits of canine-assisted therapy for adults in nonmilitary settings. US Army Med Dep J. 2012, Apr–Jun:30–37.Google Scholar
- 30.• Oztop E, Kawato M, Arbib MA. Mirror neurons: functions, mechanism and models. Neurosci Lett. In press. Recent review describing mirror neurons and the models that may utilize them.Google Scholar
- 36.Marcus DA, Bhowmick A. Survey of migraine sufferers with dogs to evaluate for canine migraine-alerting behaviors. J Altern Complement Med. In press.Google Scholar
- 37.Marcus DA. The power of wagging tails: a doctor’s guide to dog therapy and healing. New York: Demos Health; 2011.Google Scholar
- 39.Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities. The dog’s sense of smell. Available at www.aces.edu/pubs/docs/U/UNP-0066/UNP-0066.pdf. Accessed January 2013.
- 40.• Wilson AD, Baietto M. Advances in electronic-nose technologies developed for biomedical applications. Sensors. 2011;11:1105–76. Comprehensive review of the development and application of electronic nose technology toward detecting and analyzing a broad range of medical conditions.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar