Denver is a Golden-doodle and a volunteer therapy dog. He wears his volunteer badge with pride here at the Texas Tech Physicians Medical Pavilion. Why? Because research is proving there are health benefits when you interact with therapy dogs.
Therapy dogs are qualified trained pets whose owners take time to visit hospitals, nursing homes and rehabilitation facilities. Denver, along with Matt and his wife Genene, visits patients one or two hours a week…mostly pediatric, geriatric and other patients with diabetes or heart issues.
Medical studies support the idea that dogs in general have enormous health benefits for people. Pets have been shown to lower blood pressure, improve recovery from heart disease and even reduce rates of asthma and allergy in children who grow up with a dog in the house. Pets also improve people's psychological well-being.
Researchers at the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Nursing found that dogs can provide Alzheimer's patients relief from sundown syndrome,
which causes restlessness, confusion, aimless wandering and agitation. In a study at the University of Southern Maine, researchers found that therapy dog visits calmed the agitation of patients with severe dementia. At UCLA another group of researchers found that therapy dog visits had a significant effect on heart patients.
Another research study from Loyola University showed that patients who engaged with pet therapy dogs needed 50 percent less pain medications than other patients.
Therapy dog visits can also significantly improve emotional distress and feelings of well being in family and friends of patients as well as hospital and clinic staff.
When commanded, Denver will strike a pose, shake hands and give someone a "high five". But most of all, his love is to make patients smile and make them feel just a bit better. For the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, I'm Dr. Tedd Mitchell, and this is the President's Prescription.
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