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Therapy dogs can facilitate patient's healing

April 4, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
From helping kids with autism to comforting those dealing with chronic pain, therapy dogs are making a big impact in healthcare.

Animal Assisted Therapy or A-A-T uses trained animals to enhance a person's physical and emotional well-being.

Experts say these pups help facilitate the healing process.

Sergeant Matthew Krumweide lost both legs and severely injured his arm in Afghanistan.

"I stepped on an IED," Sgt. Krumweide said.

Rehab's been hard, but Kelsie makes it easier.

Matthew says, one day during physical therapy, he was struggling while working on his arm's range of motion. He tells us when Kelsie came in, the pain went away.

"We were able to get there, get to 90 degrees," Sgt. Krumweide said.

Dr. Elizabeth Johnson, Medical Director of the Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center, in San Antonio, Texas, believes therapy dogs are the most holistic approach to treatment.

A study found therapy dog visits to chronic pain patients led to significant reduction in pain and emotional distress. Research shows therapy dogs also lowered autistic children's stress hormones or cortisol levels by 48 percent, which points to potential behavioral benefits.

Various reports say, pet therapy can help lower anxiety, decrease blood pressure, shorten hospital stays, and improve patient outcomes.

Matthew's improving every day. He's working on walking and eventually wants to snow ski.

"So that's gonna be hard, I gotta work at it," Sgt. Krumweide said.

And Kelsie will be close by to help him through it all.

A dog's presence can also have an interesting effect on us. A Japanese study found just by looking at their dog an owner's oxytocin levels increased. Oxytocin is a chemical produced by the pituitary gland that's associated with human bonding.


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