Some therapy dogs work in service to one owner or handler, providing services such as alerting their handler to an oncoming seizure, or low blood sugar. Other therapy dogs work in with strangers in hospitals or workplaces in hopes of decreasing negative emotional states such as depression, anxiety or fear. Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University conducted a study designed to test the efficacy of animal assisted therapy with service dogs for individuals undergoing electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). If you don’t know much about ECT, it is used as a treatment for disorders such as treatment-resistant depression or bipolar disorder and involves a brief electrical stimulation to the brain while under an anesthetic. Sounds scary to me! And it does to certain patients receiving the treatment, but researchers found that animal-assisted therapy may be an effective reducer of some of this fear and anxiety. When compared to a control group, the group of patients who experienced animal-assisted therapy with service dogs prior to their ECT experienced a reduction of fear and anxiety. While this study was specific to ECT, it is likely that the fear and anxiety reducing properties of animal-assisted therapy are evident in other patient populations.
Thanks @sierra_ayyy on Instagram for the photo!