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Help Overcome Depression with a Dog

Posted on: September 12th, 2007 by

By: Dr. Jack Stephens

Previously I have reported how I have personally witnessed people eliminate antidepressants by the simple act of obtaining a dog, especially a “lap” or household dog or cat. I have also shared how it is being scientifically documented and measured that pets can reduce and even eliminate mild depression.

Now, the National Women’s Health Resource Center and Support Partners has a national education campaign dedicated to people with depression, touting the benefits of a dog in overcoming depression. They suggest that petting your dog will help relieve stress and anxiety, taking your dog for a walk gives you exercise and relieves stress, and teaching your dog a new trick will give you a sense of accomplishment.

More and more social and healthcare professions are seeing the value of pets in helping to keep us healthy and improving our health when we are ill, stressed or depressed. Why is this important? Because the acknowledgment by national organizations and health care professionals will expand the access and awareness of the valuable role that pets play in our health. What more natural way to stay healthy and happy than by having the joy of owning a pet?

If you review some of my previous blogs you will see where I discuss the exact biochemical feedback mechanisms we experience when we are with our pets. How pets improve our health and well being by altering our biochemistry is still under investigation, and I will share the findings as they continue to develop. In summary a few benefits of pets are as follows:

The quiet interaction of petting a pet will lower your blood pressure, decrease your stress hormone and increase the levels of good hormones and neurotransmitters which will all help you feel better.

The simple act of watching fish in a fish tank will lower your blood pressure and decrease feelings of anxiety.

Interacting with your pet will increase your serotonin levels, which are instrumental to decreasing the feelings of depression.

Walking your pet will help you lose weight better than other traditional weight loss methods and improve your sense of well being.

According to a leading clinical psychologist, “While a doctor, family and friends should form the basis of a support network for clinically depressed individuals, dogs can play an important role by being a constant companion. Depression is often associated with strong social stigma, causing people to withdraw from their lives and intensifying the emotional symptoms of the illness.”

You and I know walking your dog will bring on more social contacts, make you feel better and help you lose weight, which are all beneficial to your emotional health and physical well being. Having a constant companion in your home will decrease the feeling of loneliness, provide you with activity that makes you feel needed and improve your biochemistry. So, take care of your buddies, and they will take care of you.

“Prescribe Pets Not Pills”

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3 Comments

  1. Amanda Pasqualle says:

    I was wondering how I would get a medical excuse to keep my dog.. I live in an apartment that recently does not allow animals & my dog helps me with depression & anxiety, he truly helps me everyday. I’ve called a therapist and have an appointment thursday but would like more information on this & how i can be sure that wont lose him. I honestly feel as if I need him by my side most of the time. Please help asap, THANK YOU!!!

  2. Dave Gray says:

    Have your clinician write you a letter stating the dog is classified as a “service” dog, and is medically necessary. I can’t imagine a no-pet rule superceding that. What would blind people do if that were the case?

  3. donna marcel says:

    Can anyone let me know the steps to find a trained dog that could help with my depression and fear of the dark. Have been on meds for quite sometime and keep having them increased.
    I live in a large home with a large yard. Can anyone help?? My doctor has not heard of pet therapy??? Anxious for help thank you

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