Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Service Animals: Helping is Saving

Here is a guest blogger, Cindy Romero, who has written an article on service animals I think you will all enjoy.  Thanks.  Gay

Our pets are hardworking, and willing to do anything to please us, but can they also keep us safe? Besides the Seeing Eye dogs we all know and love, there are many other service animals that keep their masters alive, well, and happy every day.

Mental Health Therapy Dogs
Let’s start with what most people commonly express about their pets: they are therapeutic for their mental health. My pets know when I’m sad, and they do try to cheer me up whether it’s snuggles from my cats or energetic kisses from my dogs (my bunny remains adorably oblivious but that’s okay). Our pets can say so much about us and can also be a very therapeutic part of our lives. Among the different types of animals we keep as pets, dogs seem to be best at helping us when we need them most.  Among those that are so appreciated is the certified psychiatric service dog.
Besides helping autistic children with emotional, social, and communication skills, dogs are also great for people with depression and anxiety disorders, as well as those with developmental disorders. The unconditional love and dependency of a dog can boost a person’s mood more than anyone would think. According to MentalHealthDogs.org, the many benefits of specifically-trained-for-you therapy dogs include the following:
·         Increased sense of security, self-ability, self-esteem, and well-being and purpose
·         Relief from loneliness and isolation
·         Structure and healthy habits
·         Optimism
·         Uncomplicated, dependable, and safe relationship
·         Motivation to exercise and interact socially
Even if someone doesn’t have a trained mental health service dog, snuggling with his or her pet helps lower the hormone, cortisol, a stress hormone urging to engage in either fight or flight.  And lowering one’s cortisol level is always beneficial.

Diabetic Alert Dogs
These therapy dogs can quickly alert diabetics to the severe spikes or drops in their insulin levels, some of which can be life-threatening. The Wall Street Journal suggest that the dog’s acute sense of smell, its accuracy and speed for detecting low blood sugar does a better job of detecting impending a diabetic crisis than do many medical devices.  Scientists don’t know what it is the animal can detect, but these dogs (retrievers, generally) smell it.  Once alerted by his or her canine friend, a diabetic can then take steps to manage their blood glucose levels, which can save a life and prevent serious complications.

Seizure Alert Dogs
Similar to the diabetic alert dogs, these dogs are trained to warn their caretakers of an on-coming seizure. How Stuff Works maintains that animals are highly sensitive to subtle physical and biological signals that humans don’t notice. Assigned to those with epilepsy, a dog can tell when the seizure is on its way and will warn the human by pawing, barking or circling and trying to get the person to lie down in a safe place. The dog will then lie beside or on top of the person to make him or her feel safe and prevent them from injuring themselves. How loving and responsible is that?

Other uses:
Reading therapy dogs and even school counselor assistance cats and dogs are also helpful in the classroom setting, making children more comfortable and less aggressive toward others (for more information on therapy animals, click here).
Animals provide a heartfelt and enthusiastic service to so many appreciative people. 
January 29th is Seeing Eye dog day. Celebrate all service animals on this day, and  let your animals cheer you up a little bit more for an extra treat.

I’m Cindy Romero a writer on all things pets.  I have a high jumping cat (Sebastiana), a beautiful black lab (Shadow), a calming retriever-lab (Teddy) and a feisty Himalayan bunny (Ruby) that all roam around the house.

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