Therapy Dogs Reduce Pain in Emergency Room Patients, New Study Finds

Researchers found that emergency room patients who spent 10 minutes with a therapy dog reported less pain than before the animal's visit

therapy dog
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A new study has found that dogs can help ease the suffering of patients experiencing pain in the emergency room.

Researchers have determined that as little as 10 minutes with a dog can have a positive effect on people by reducing their pain, anxiety and depression, according to a study published in the journal PLOS One on Wednesday.

The study collected data from more than 200 emergency room patients at The Royal University Hospital Emergency Department in Saskatchewan, Canada, which was chosen for its "longstanding visiting therapy dog program," according to the study.

Golden Retriever puppy

Researchers asked patients — who were waiting to be seen by a doctor, were in treatment or were waiting for a bed — to rank their pain from 1 (the lowest) to 10 (the highest). The patients were divided into two groups: the control group which was not greeted by therapy dogs, and the treatment group which spent time with the dogs.

The treatment group reported less pain after visiting with the dogs.

"Participants in the therapy dog team group rated pain significantly lower than those in the control group at the post-intervention measurement," the study noted.

Jessica Chubak, senior investigator with the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute, told CNN in an email that "the results of the study are promising."

Clark, who did not conduct the study, explained, "Our current understanding of the effects of therapy dog visits in emergency department settings is fairly limited. So, it is particularly important to have more research in this area."

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Colleen Dell, the lead study author and the research chair in One Health and Wellness and professor at the University of Saskatchewan, told CNN, "There is research showing that pets are an important part of our health in different ways. They motivate us, they get us up, (give us) routines, the human-animal bond."

Dell added that she hopes the results of the study push people to stop questioning if therapy dogs are helpful, and instead start asking how to incorporate them better into our healthcare systems.

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