How Dogs Help With Stress

January 29 2014

We have long known about the therapeutic value of dogs. They have been known to help the handicapped, bring companionship to the lonely, help lower blood pressure and even help socialize criminal offenders. Therapy dogs have been recruited to alert those suffering from diabetes, epilepsy and more. They provide aid to children with autism and cerebral palsy. Now, a study at Michigan State University has found they are a key ingredient to helping college students ace their finals.

How? By their mere presence; as students gather at the library to cram for finals, fueled with energy drinks, caffeine and nicotine the atmosphere is like a pressure cooker. So the Outreach Librarian, Holly Flynn, decided to do something to ease the tension. She brought in seven therapy dogs that usually visit hospitals and nursing homes to "lend their paws to help students take a pause." Not only did they provide a much needed respite with their hugs and kisses, they literally reduced the student's heart beats, keeping them healthier.

"You look at them and they're just so adorable. This is so nice. I just feel better," MSU freshman Amanda Covert said.

Calming Soldiers
The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs reports that a veteran commits suicide every 65 minutes with 755,200 veterans suffering from PTSD and 184 new cases being diagnosed every day. Service dogs have proven to be invaluable in providing companionship and helping veterans with day-to-day living, giving them a new lease on life. K9s for Warriors is an organization that trains dogs specifically for soldiers suffering from PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury and rescues the dogs from being euthanized. Take the case of Karl Fleming who returned from Afghanistan with a concussion, PTSD, memory loss, extreme anxiety and pain. He became somewhat of a recluse, sleeping all the time. All that changed when he was paired with Kuchar, who gave him a new lease on life.

Helping With Seizures
At 4 Paws For Ability, they train Seizure Response Dogs and Seizure Alert Dogs to provide comfort for children and adults with epilepsy and other seizure disorders. Seizure Alert Dogs warn their owner of upcoming epileptic seizures anywhere from 30 seconds to 45 minutes prior to an episode. Many epileptics become isolated because they are afraid of having a seizure in public, so the dog can help prevent a catastrophe (getting them to a safe place). Seizure Response Dogs helps their owners during and after seizures. Each dog has its own style of alerting, including pawing, barking, circling and making close eye contact. Researchers believe that a dog's superior sense of smell enable them to predict an imminent seizure or that they can detect small changes in behavior prior to a seizure.

Helping Diabetics
Diabetes service dogs are given special training to learn how to assist people with type 1 diabetes. Normally, a person can feel the warning signals of low blood sugar (sweating, shaking, nausea, and confusion); however, some are unable to feel these symptoms and are unaware that their blood sugar is dropping or is dangerously low. This can lead to seizures, brain damage, or passing out while driving. Diabetic Alert Service Dogs give a trained signal to alert its partner to low or high blood sugar levels, alert others if their owners need assistance, retrieve phones in case of an emergency, and bring juice or medicine when needed.

Even family pets provide comfort, love and assistance to their owners. There seems to be no limits as to what our amazing dogs can do!

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