Issue 74

Dogs & Depression: Can Your Dog Help You Cope?

Every body feels a bit down in the dumps from time to time, but for those who suffer from clinical depression, the effects can be life shattering. Owning a dog, as any K9 Magazine reader will testify, brings with it a set of benefits, one of which is having a ready made best friend at your disposal.

It has always been informally acknowledged that the sincere nudge of a cold, wet nose can chase the blues away, but the cathartic and life enhancing effects of canine companionship can be harnessed in a more structured way to cope with depression, as Patrick Ellis discovered.

While many people with depression turn to family and friends for support, research has shown that enlisting the help of a dog – may also have a positive effect on overall health and well-being.

As part of her commitment to helping people with the illness, Emmy Award winning actress, Linda Dano, is leading Support Partners: Canine Companions, a program that offers practical tips on how to expand support networks by incorporating dogs into the recovery process.

dogs and depression

The US-based program has been sponsored by a leading animal health company and the Psychiatric Service Dog Society.

"Depression is an illness often associated with strong social stigma, causing people to withdraw from their lives, intensifying the emotional symptoms of the illness, like sadness and feelings of worthlessness," said Rakesh Jain, M.D., M.P.H., director of psychiatric drug research, R/D Clinical Research Center, Lake Jackson, Texas. "While a doctor, family and friends should form the basis of any support network, dogs can play an important role by being a constant companion. They can help reduce these emotional symptoms, while possibly helping other symptoms, like fatigue or lack of energy, with daily walks."

How Dogs Can Help Their Owners: Key Facts

The majority of pet owners feel their pets are extremely important when they are sad, lonely or depressed.

Dogs can provide the desirable qualities of a best friend, like listening, physical contact and empathy.

Half of dog owners believe that their pet makes a major difference to their lives, ranking increased exercise and companionship as the two most important differences.

Talking to dogs is related to greater life satisfaction and better physical and mental health.



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