How dogs help us manage pain

For the past two years I’ve been struggling with knee issues.  Not great for someone who regularly is on their knees photographing pets. Today while I was waiting to see my orthopedist (might need another arthroscopic surgery) I spotted a sign on the wall about how dogs are used for pain management.  This intrigued me as I have two dogs and it is time to make them earn their kibble (just kidding, they earn it everyday with sloppy kisses).

I’m aware that having dogs (and pets in general) has many beneficial effects in the lives of humans from getting them out of the house and active, to lowering blood pressure and, of course, there are many, many working dogs that provide needed services. But pain management?  OK, how does that work?

pug on drift wood
Pug on the beach

After doing some research I learned a few interesting facts.  Did you know that a study from the National Institutes of Health found dog owners had a better one-year survival rate following a heart attack than non-dog owners?  Sounds good to me especially when you consider that dog owners require 20 percent less medical care than non-dog owners, according to a UCLA study among the elderly.  Next thing you know there will be a new health care initiative from the insurance industry about getting a dog to lower the cost of health care and I could get behind that!

bloodhound playing golden gate bridge

As for pain management patients recovering from joint replacement (something I sincerely hope is not in my future) who use animal-assisted therapy need 50 percent less pain medication, according to Loyola University researchers.  Perhaps this is from the distraction of the dogs or the joy in interacting with them.  Whatever the reason – is there a downside to having a dog in your life.  Yes, it is a huge responsibility and time commitment, but also comes with untold and uncountable benefits.

Thinking about getting a dog?  Lily, Harry and I strongly encourage it.  How about adopting one from a local shelter.  Save their life and perhaps your’s at the same time.

dogs playing at beach in berkeley

black lab at balboa park

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