Pets in Medicine?

Discussion in 'Medical Students - DO' started by coreyw, Apr 24, 2004.

  1. coreyw

    coreyw Senior Member
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    Anyone have any experiences to share on the 'use' of companion animals to help manage illness?

    I've heard of dogs and cats and bunny wabbits being brought into kids' hospitals and old folks homes. Cute 'n' furries have been used to held treat depression and hypertension too.

    What does the 'healing power of pets' say about therapeutic touch viz OMT?
     
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  2. DoctorInSpace

    DoctorInSpace Senior Member
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    Hmmmm.....now I'm curious about what seeing animals does for brain chemistry or other body reactions that helps people to feel better.

    We recently started Pet Therapy with one of our clubs on campus. We went to a Nursing home/Rehab recently, and people LOVED it! I thought it was just b/c it was a change from the daily routine.

    Maybe someone with some higher education in psychology can help out......
     
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  3. cookypuss3

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    it's a cool phenomenon, isn't it? I find myself grinning like a goon when I see one of the golden retrievers in the hospital.

    I'm not sure what the etiology of the response is. Maybe it's the old theory that people viscerally respond to things with babyish/young qualities because evolution has wisely "programmed" them to feel so passionately about offspring. Hence the theories about women with big eyes, small noses, blond hair, soft flawless skin -- all very babylike, innocent, vulnerable -- and considered attractive by a huge segment of the population. I'm definitely extrapolating way out here, but maybe it's the same with animals? The big eyes, the helplessness, the softness, the unconditional affection? (Excluding, of course, your neighbor's rabid pit bull.) On the other hand, chronically ill patients who are hospitalized long term lose sense of the external world and what gives them a sense of normalcy -- hence the expected depression, etc. Maybe bringing in a dog breaks that sterile hospital feeling and reminds a patient that there are pleasurable things in the outside world and their life (hopefully) is not going to be some icky hospital room forever. Above all, having a smiling dog in your lap just takes your mind off your problems.

    Who knows? I'm so happy it's an available resource. :thumbup:
     
  4. Fermata

    Fermata Hold me.
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    Get a plant.

    They are relatively low maintenance. :)
     
  5. coreyw

    coreyw Senior Member
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    But they don't fetch or purr... except triffids... but i'm not sure triffids are more than placebo effect ;)

    aw hell, it's all damn 'placebo' effect!

    I've grown up with cats and dogs and rabbits and ferrets and cockatoos and stuff my whole life... when I moved out of home (oh soooo many years ago) I really missed not having a cat or dawg to hang out with (moved around to often... it wouldn't be fair to the beastie)... My folks are wildlife rehabilitators so I got raised alongside a menagerie of native Australian wildlife too (explains a lot, right?)... anyhoo, I intuit that the absence of critters leaves me worse off. I certainly feel perkier when the brown burmese cat from up the road sleeps on my bed. i suspect it has a lot to do with both the interpersonal (friendship, love, etc.) and tactile angles. But the point made about the parent-infant response thingy seems valid too.

    methinks pets have the added bonus of making the doctor happier as well as the patient.
     
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  6. here atlast

    here atlast Member
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    I think it might more have to do with the psychology of the phenomena. I belive when someone is so sick and busy with the illness and treatment, seeing an animal gives them a chance to think about life in more basic way, and by petting them they kind of connect with the innocent reality of life, and it kind of gives them hope about life, and hence the chemical secretions in the brain, they feel better!
     
  7. coreyw

    coreyw Senior Member
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    Somebody tried to post this but it hasn't seem to have come up (except in my in-tray):

    "Pregnant females should not be exposed to cats at all. 80% of cats
    have Toxoplasma gondii which when it infects preganant females with no
    previous exposure causes severe birth defects. It comes from cat feces
    and undercooked pork."

    Fair point. I was going to ask folks' views on contraindications and 'side effects' (what a stupid term that is; an effect is an effect) of pet therapy.

    In relation to this point though, I wonder if this is a US thing, since I've never heard this cautionary noted aired in Australia.
     
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  8. futuredo32

    futuredo32 Senior Member
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    Actually, as long as pregnant women wash their hands after handling their cat or changing the litter box(which I hope they would do anyway), pregnant women can be around cats.
     
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  9. cookypuss3

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    I like to lick my fingers after I change the kitty litter.
     
  10. TXsongdoc08

    TXsongdoc08 Junior Member
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    I know a girl that owns a "therapy dog" and used to get paid a lot of money to take it down to some of the nicest hospitals in Dallas, TX. Supposedly, the dog was very good with people and had a lot of personality. Something like that can probably mean a lot to someone who has been staring at the fluorescent light over their bed all day. Also, several studies have shown that watching fish in an aquarium and petting dogs can significantly lower blood pressure. Its likely that its a physiological phenomenon similar to what happens during laughter, which has been shown to control pain and boost immune response, as well as lowering BP and stress.
     

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