The Animals Improving our Lives Every Day
Any pet owner will tell you the benefits companion animals bring to our lives, and their positive effect on our mood and wellbeing is well documented.
And yet it seems we’re only just beginning to understand the impact pets can have – not just on individual wellbeing, but on societal health.
Let’s take a look at four examples of this in action from around the world.
THE DOGS HELPING TO DETECT DISEASES EARLIER
Medical Detection Dogs, a UK charity is right at the cutting edge of research into dogs’ ability to detect disease.
15 years ago, Dr Claire Guest published the world’s first study of canine detection of bladder cancer and transformed how dogs could support our health. Today, we’re seeing growing evidence that dogs’ finely-tuned sense of smell can detect elevated levels of a ‘signature’ of volatile organic compounds associated with disease growth.
Dr Guest is now part of a UK-wide organisation that has detection dogs in two major clinical trials. Against a backdrop of an ageing population and the stark statistic that half of people born after 1960 will be diagnosed with some form of cancer, this non-invasive form of detection could make a meaningful difference for all of us.
THE ANIMALS MAKING A TRIP TO THE DENTIST LESS ANXIOUS
Researchers in 2018 partnered with a dental hospital to assess effects of having a Therapy Dog present during children’s dental procedures.
The first of its kind study found that there was a significant decrease in the anxiety levels of the children given animal assisted interventions during their dental procedure than when they were not.
The findings were presented to the ISAZ (International Society of Anthrozoology), an organization which aims to promote the study of human-animal interactions and relationships
THE PETS PROVIDING ESSENTIAL THERAPY
50 years ago, Dr. Boris Levinson, a children’s psychologist, brought his dog to work and made a radical discovery. Children with communication difficulties were suddenly more at ease and responsive when a pet was in the room. Dr Levinson quickly became a pioneer in the field of animal-assisted therapy (AAT).
Today, AAT is helping people around the globe. For example, in the U.S., leading organization Pet Partners makes some 3 million home visits each year, offering ‘animal assisted crisis response’ bringing pets to people including veterans with PTSD, elderly people with neurological conditions and students with literacy challenges.
THE EARLY WARNING DOGS THAT PREDICT SEIZURES
Since 1996, some dogs have been reported as being sensitive to epileptic warning signs in their owners, alerting them of an oncoming seizure within minutes—sometimes hours—before it even happens.
Although researchers are not 100% sure how some dogs can detect this, or the rates of accuracy, charities, such as Canine Partners for Life, are now utilising dogs that have the capability to alert to seizures, by encouraging alerting behaviours and training them as service dogs.
With 50 million people around the world suffering from epilepsy, it is hoped more of these dogs will help empower people with epilepsy in their daily activities and provide a safer environment for them to live.