By The Week's Editorial Staff | The Week
Canines can work medical wonders, from easing the side effects of chemotherapy to helping army veterans cope with post-traumatic stress disorder
A dog is man's best friend in the most ordinary situations, but it's when you're down and out that your canine partner really comes through in the clutch. From easing military veterans' battles with post-traumatic stress disorder to reducing heart and lung pressure for heart-failure patients, the tail-wagging beasts are walking therapy centers. They're also great motivators to get you off the couch and exercise, and can even improve infant immune systems. Here, eight ways dogs improve our health:
1. Lessen the side effects of chemotherapy
Once a week for the past seven years, Veronica Pardo, a volunteer, has brought two dogs to the only hospital in Quito, Ecuador that treats children with cancer. The dogs not only "bring a sparkle to the eyes and smile to the faces of little ones in the midst of a huge struggle to stay alive," says The Associated Press, they also have been shown to boost the children's adrenaline, which helps them bolster their resistance to the harsh effects of chemotherapy.
2. Help veterans with PTSD
Many veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from chronic fear, anxiety, depression, and other forms of post-traumatic stress disorder, and dogs are ideal companions to "draw out even the most isolated personality" and help "traumatized veterans overcome emotional numbness," says Chris Coling at Smithsonian Magazine. There are currently four experimental programs nationwide in which PTSD-afflicted veterans are paired with Labradors and Golden Retrievers as therapy.
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