ICAWC 2011: The Dog Prescription - Paula Boyden

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Dogs Trust Veterinary Director Paula Boyden on the health benefits to humans from dog ownership. (Formerly the Canine Charter for Human Health)

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  • Long term plan to educate, raise awareness of dog ownership/interaction with animals that can have a positive impact. Not only on abandonment but also on the health of individuals. This will not happen overnight, but hope it is something we can all aspire to
  • Not just the line of least resistance but may reflects how little the benefits of dog ownership are understood.
  • Must remember that while in the UK we may speak about the relinquishment of dogs, elsewhere street dogs are perceived as strays with the attitude that they must be ‘dealt with / got rid of’. However, as you are well aware many so-called street dogs are owned; they are community dogs, and therefore the benefit they bring to the communities that own them must not be overlooked when looking at addressing/approaching dog control programmes. This importance is already being reflected in some areas with the move from TNR – trap/neuter/release to CVNR – collect/vaccinate/neuter/return.
  • Advice for why we should try and help to avoid relinquishment Evidence for municipalities / local authorities that the way they treat/deal with dogs may well have a negative impact on the welfare of humans as well as the welfare of the dogs. Even though there may be cultural differences regarding attitudes the benefits are clear. Irrespective of where we live, the majority of people have families / are part of a community / have people they care for. In total there are 10 elements to the dog prescription; numbers are not chronological; have addressed from a ‘what’s in it for me’ perspective
  • A little bit of cortisol, the stress hormone does not do us any harm However, we will all go through periods of stress and anxiety at certain stages in our lives, be it death of a loved one, relationship break down, divorce, unemployment or money worries. Prolonged stress and anxiety are not good for us and can lead on to longer term health problems. This is why at Dogs Trust we have our Freedom Project; providing foster care for dogs of victims fleeing domestic violence – we recognise that for many the dog has been a lifeline to victims and, as such, they will not flee the situation without taking care of the dog. This is for 2 key reasons: Fear of revenge that the perpetrator may take out on the dog The dog is their link to normality and has provided a huge amount of support What’s in it for me – reduced chance of longer term health problems
  • Sadly there is still a big taboo about depression and mental health; because you cannot ‘see’ the injury e.g. a broken bone, there are varying attitudes towards it, both from the people around us and even from the medical profession. There are many that have a ‘pull yourself together’ attitude. The presence of a dog can mean the difference between an individual being able to cope through difficult times in their lives and becoming clinically unwell. The affection of a dog is unconditional – their perception of our emotions is enormous and their presence has a huge soothing effect. Going back to the ‘what’s in it for me’ – less cost on health resources
  • Professor Boris Levinson is regarded as the founding father of human-companion animal bond studies. Through his work with children and older people he came to realise the potential of the bond. He utilised animals as “co-therapists” during consultations. He encouraged colleagues to conduct research.
  • Some older people are very active, others frail, some have dementia or other chronic health problems. This will apply to species other than dogs, and does not mean that we have to rush out and buy every elderly relative a pet. However, again having access, a sense of responsibility. If an elderly person has to remember to feed the dog, they are more likely to feed themselves. What’s in it for me? An older person staying healthy: Better mental attitude – most people don’t like being sick Lower cost of healthcare and dependant living
  • Due to demographic changes many governments are concerned about how to provide care and support for increasing numbers of older people. Companion animals promote health and help to support older people in many diverse way. In the USA the National Pets in Federal Housing Law enacted in 1983 gave older and disabled people the right to keep companion animals in most sheltered housing. There is no similar legislation in UK. In the UK some 140,000 older people have to relinquish their pets every year when they go into care; an estimated 38000 pets are euthanased.
  • Calming influence of dogs allows children to focus more
  • It is not just children with learning and educational difficulties that benefit What’s in it for me: Better school attendance, maximising chances of getting on in later life Healthier: less drain on health resources / time off for looking after a poorly child. If you don’t work, you don’t get paid
  • Pets have an important role to play in child development. (Levinson) Pets provide comfort, act as confidantes and provide social support. Through pets children learn about parenting, become responsible, empathetic and learn body language. They can witness life cycles - learning about pregnancy/birth/ growth/ adulthood/ death. Resources: “Children and Pets” 2003, pub by SCAS; Levinson, B. Pet- Orientated Child Psychotherapy 2 nd Ed 1997, pub by Charles Thomas, Illinois ISBN 0-398-06674-4; “Why the wild things are” Melson2001 Harvard University Press ISBN 0-674-00481-7
  • Children reared with pets have fewer allergies of any type – to pets, house dust mites, moulds, hay fever. It is important to have exposure in the first year of life and multiple pets provide better protection. It is thought that the immune system needs to be “keyed” at this time. There is a growing body of evidence that keeping a child’s environment too sterile can trigger allergies – the “clean hypothesis”.
  • If more physically active will reduce the chances/incidence of obesity and diseases associated with it e.g. type 2 diabetes, arthritis Does not necessarily mean that they are out walking the dog, but different outlook on life – not a sedentary in front of the TV approach
  • E O Wilson is a very highly respected entomologist and Pulitzer prize winner. His Biophilia Hypothesis is now accepted and widely discussed. Kellert and Wilson, 1993 The Biophilia Hypothesis, pub by Island Press ISBN 1-55963-147-3 The term "biophilia" literally means "love of life or living systems.“The biophilia hypothesis suggests that there is an instinctive bond between human beings and other living systems . Wilson uses the term in the same sense when he suggests that biophilia describes "the connections that human beings subconsciously seek with the rest of life.” He proposed the possibility that the deep affiliations humans have with nature are rooted in our biology. In the book Children and Nature: Psychological, Sociocultural, and Evolutionary Investigations edited by Peter Kahn and Stephen Kellert [3] ( page 153 ), the importance of animals, especially those with which a child can develop a nurturing relationship, is emphasised particularly for early and middle childhood. Chapter 7 of the same book reports on the help that animals can provide to children with autistic-spectrum disorders
  • ICAWC 2011: The Dog Prescription - Paula Boyden

    1. 1. The Dog Prescription
    2. 2. The human/companion animal bond
    3. 4. Why do People Relinquish Animals? No time Moving House Allergies Having a baby Relationship breakdown Can’t Cope Line of Least Resistance Behavioural Issues
    4. 5. <ul><li>Must remember that while in the UK we may speak about the relinquishment of dogs, elsewhere street dogs are perceived as strays with the attitude that they must be ‘dealt with / got rid of’. However, as you are well aware many so-called street dogs are owned; they are community dogs, and therefore the benefit they bring to the communities that own them must not be overlooked when looking at addressing/approaching dog control programmes. </li></ul><ul><li>This importance is already being reflected in some areas with the move from TNR – trap/neuter/release to CVNR – collect/vaccinate/neuter/return. </li></ul>
    5. 6. Dogs and People
    6. 7. <ul><li>The special abilities of dogs have been harnessed to help mankind in many diverse ways. For example to herd flocks. </li></ul>
    7. 8. Cancer Dogs <ul><li>More recently it has been discovered that dogs can be trained to detect cancer. In the UK a new charity Cancer Dogs is being set up in which bio detection dogs – usually gun dogs - are trained to detect prostate cancer in urine samples. www.cancerdogs.uk </li></ul>
    8. 9. Assistance Dogs <ul><li>The ability of assistance dogs is astounding </li></ul><ul><li>The social support provided by the dogs is as important as the freedom and independence achieved </li></ul>
    9. 10. The Dog Prescription - what’s in it for me?
    10. 11. 4. Dog owners make fewer visits to their GP and spend less time in hospital In countries where there is no national health service, huge financial burden on the individual If there is a national health service much greater drain on the country’s resources
    11. 12. 9. Dog owning adults and children are more physically active and healthier than non-dog owners If more physically active will reduce the chances/incidence of obesity and diseases associated with it e.g. type 2 diabetes, arthritis Does not necessarily mean that they are out walking the dog, but different outlook on life – not sedentary in front of the TV approach
    12. 13. 7. Owning a dog can help lower blood pressure in children and adults The very act of a dog being around lowers BP – again an impact on the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke
    13. 14. 6. Dog ownership aids recovery of post coronary patients Not talking about pets as therapy – pets that visit those that are ill/incapacitated. Provide a fantastic service. This is owned dogs and the impact that they can have. Again, in terms of what’s in it for me; aiding recovery = less time in hospital = less cost either to the individual or to the country’s resources
    14. 15. 10. Dogs can provide great emotional support for humans during periods of stress and anxiety
    15. 16. 5. Dogs can reduce depression and improve mental well-being in humans
    16. 17. 8. Dogs can help the elderly by combating feelings of loneliness and isolation
    17. 18. <ul><li>“ Many elderly and lonely people have discovered that pets satisfy vital emotional needs .... they can hang onto the world of reality, of cares, of human toil and sacrifice and of intense emotional relationships by caring for an animal. Their concepts of themselves, as worthwhile persons can be restored, even enhanced by the assurance that the pets they care for love them in return” </li></ul><ul><li>Levinson </li></ul>
    18. 19. Health benefits, older people <ul><ul><li>Better scores relating to Activities of Daily Living </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Improved calmness in dementia patients </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Increased alertness </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>30-40% reduced risk heart attack, stroke </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Better survival following heart attack or stroke </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>15% fewer GP visits, less time in hospital </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Fewer prescriptions </li></ul></ul>
    19. 20. Social benefits <ul><li>Provide structure to the day </li></ul><ul><li>Better social interactions </li></ul><ul><li>Reduce loneliness </li></ul><ul><li>Promote independence </li></ul><ul><li>Buffer against relocation shock </li></ul><ul><li>Provide outward focus </li></ul><ul><li>Safety </li></ul>
    20. 21. What’s in it for my children?
    21. 22. 1. Dogs can help the development of children with learning and educational difficulties
    22. 23. 2. Children that grow up with dogs are healthier and spend more time in school
    23. 24. Children and animals <ul><li>Increased empathy </li></ul><ul><li>Higher self-esteem </li></ul><ul><li>More friends </li></ul><ul><li>Improved learning skills </li></ul><ul><li>Better school attendance </li></ul>
    24. 25. 3. Owning a dog helps reduce the risk of allergies in children, in particular asthma, wheezing and eczema
    25. 26. 9. Dog owning adults and children are more physically active and healthier than non-dog owners
    26. 27. 10. Dogs can provide great emotional support for humans during periods of stress and anxiety
    27. 28. <ul><li>Dogs can help the development of children with learning and educational difficulties </li></ul><ul><li>Children that grow up with dogs are healthier and spend more time in school </li></ul><ul><li>Owning a dog helps reduce the risk of allergies in children, in particular asthma, wheezing and eczema </li></ul><ul><li>Dog owners make fewer visits to their GP and spend less time in hospital </li></ul><ul><li>Dogs can reduce depression and improve mental well-being in humans </li></ul><ul><li>Dog ownership aids recovery of post coronary patients </li></ul><ul><li>Owning a dog can help lower blood pressure in children and adults </li></ul><ul><li>Dogs can help the elderly by combating feelings of loneliness and isolation </li></ul><ul><li>Dog owning adults and children are more physically active and healthier than non-dog owners </li></ul><ul><li>Dogs can provide great emotional support for humans during periods of stress and anxiety </li></ul>
    28. 29. <ul><li>The Biophilia Hypothesis: </li></ul><ul><li>human dependence on nature extends far beyond material and physical sustenance, to encompass the human craving for aesthetic, intellectual, cognitive, spiritual meaning and satisfaction. </li></ul><ul><li>Is inherent </li></ul><ul><li>Associated with genetic fitness </li></ul><ul><li>Basis for reverence for life </li></ul><ul><li>E O Wilson 1984 </li></ul>
    29. 30. The Dog Prescription - Getting Your Daily Dose <ul><li>Rehome a dog </li></ul><ul><li>Volunteer at a local re-homing centre </li></ul><ul><li>Walk a neighbour’s dog </li></ul><ul><li>Foster a dog </li></ul><ul><li>Request a visit from a Dogs Trust Education Officer at your child’s school </li></ul>
    30. 31. The Dog Prescription - Getting Your Daily Dose <ul><li>Sponsor a dog </li></ul><ul><li>Encourage care homes to have a regular canine visit and accept pets </li></ul><ul><li>Think twice about giving up a dog during pregnancy or when the baby arrives </li></ul><ul><li>Consider interaction with dogs whilst recovering from illness or surgery (cardiac rehab team) </li></ul>
    31. 32. The Dog Prescription - Getting Your Daily Dose <ul><li>Develop your own </li></ul><ul><li>Use underlying principles </li></ul><ul><li>Use the right ‘currency’ </li></ul><ul><li>Convert the unconverted </li></ul>
    32. 33. <ul><li>Thanks </li></ul><ul><li>H/CAB: www.scas.org.uk </li></ul><ul><li>Dog Prescription: www.dogstrust.org.uk </li></ul>Thank You

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