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How Canine Companions Benefit Your Health 

Written by Emily Pazel

 

There’s no secret when they say, “dogs are man’s best friend”. Whether it’s providing some type of therapy, becoming a traveling companion, or even sniffing out cancer-related illnesses, our canine friends have more to offer than meets the eye.

Could owning a dog be more beneficial than not? According to research published in the Mayo Clinic journal “Proceedings”, scientists definitely believe that’s the case. In fact, through clinical trials, they found that dog owners are more likely to have better overall heart health. 

So, what other ways can canine companions come in handy? If you’re a registered nurse and you’ve decided to take the traveling nurse career route, it’s important to note that you can bring along your furry friend. As a matter of fact, it’s suggested to bring them along as a good way to cope with being in a new place and environment.

Traveling Nurses & their Canines

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The first and most important things needed while traveling with your furry companions is making sure your pet’s documentations are up-to-date and accessible while traveling. Especially while flying to your next career location, you will most likely have to provide documentation. Here are a few things to consider while making the decision to travel with your pets:

  • Although it may vary from state to state, be sure that your pet’s rabies vaccine is up-date and that you bring it with you while traveling
  • Before traveling, try to make an appointment with your vet for a wellness check and to obtain an interstate health certificate; be sure to also brings these while you travel
  • It should be noted that most airlines will require a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection, which should be issued about 10 days before traveling
  • If not already done, get your pet licensed at your tax home; licensing requirements vary by jurisdiction, so checking your destination city in advance is a good idea; it’s easy to check by Googling: City Name pet license
  • Be sure to bring copies of spay and neuter certifications
  • It may help to get tags with your cell phone number on them in case your pet gets lost or loose while traveling; it might also be a good idea to consider getting them microchipped
  • Looking into getting pet insurance might also be a good tool to consider while traveling
  • If you’re unsure or have any questions about traveling with your pet, check in with your veterinarian, who can prove you with more information

While choosing a travel nursing career path, it should be noted that most companies try to accommodate their employees as much as possible. In some cases, however, it’s ultimately up to the landlord whether or not pets are welcome. So, it’s good to double check if your furry friend is able to travel with you to your destination before leaving.

Speaking of furry friends, did you know that some dogs are used to detect early stages of different related illnesses? Recently, the healthcare industry has been turning to dogs for their excellent sniffing skills to detect early illnesses or diseases, such as cancer. 

 

Cancer-Detection Dogs

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Interestingly enough, dogs have been able to save human lives by sniffing out cancer-related illnesses that are virtually undetectable to humans without the use of technology. It’s estimated that a dog’s sense of smell may be 10,000 to 100,000 times better than that of a human. So, how exactly does this work? 

Humans excrete hundreds of volatile organic compounds in our sweat, breath, urine and other bodily fluids, which creates a unique smell on each person. As we get sick, our body’s cells change, which ultimately cause the body’s scent to change. 

A dog’s body is designed to continuously smell different scents around them at all times, so they can detect when someone’s scent is not normal. The other reason dogs can smell so well is due to the way their brains our wired. Proportionally to humans, their brains devote 40 percent more to analyzing smells and scents they find around them. To put this in perspective, scientists use a vision analogy saying that if humans can see a third of a mile away, a dog could see 3,000 miles away with great accuracy. 

While more research continues on this type of disease-related detection, there’s great hope that our canine companions will prove to be more life saving than we think. Today, current cancer detection methods are often not as accurate as we’d like them to be. In fact, sometimes symptoms don’t appear in a patient until the disease is in its late stages, which can ultimately be fatal. 

There’s still much research that needs to be done on this topic, but for now, it’s been a reliable solution to helping save lives. And while dogs are saving lives physically, they can also save lives mentally by providing therapeutic measures to humans. So, let’s discuss the different ways dogs can be beneficial in a therapeutic setting.  

 

Therapy Dogs to the Rescue

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One of the most common ways to receive therapy in a nursing home or in a hospital is through a therapy dog, where dogs can release a calming and therapeutic effect on humans. Not only can they help people cope with emotionally related trauma, they can also offer physical contact, which is good for emotional stability. 

Typically, there are three types of therapy dogs: facility therapy dogs, animal-assisted therapy dogs, and therapeutic visitation dogs. While each type of therapy dog offers a unique form of healing, the most common is the therapeutic visitation dog, which are household pets whose owners take time to visit hospitals, nursing homes, detention facilities, and rehabilitation facilities to brighten someone’s day who can’t be home and miss their own pets.

Through their naturally positive nature, dogs can help patients maintain positivity towards achieving good health and staying young, which is perfect for someone struggling to overcome an illness or trying to live a longer life. In fact, according to research published in the US National Library of Medicine, studies revealed that patients had significantly reduced pain and pain-related symptoms after visiting with a therapy dog. 

Although it may seem like there’s therapy pets everywhere you turn, they are highly trained working animals that have to be tested, observed and certified by a national therapy dog registry. In order to become a therapy dog, the dog must undergo a test that verifies non-aggressive behavior to both humans and other animals, and the handler is completely in control. After receiving a certification, the handler and canine usually accompanies an existing team to a hospital or nursing home for three to five observed visits.  

The calming and comforting demeanor of a therapy dog offers important medical intervention that many may need while in a nursing home or hospital. As the years progress and more research is produced, we may find that dogs can offer unparalleled benefits to patients.

 

The Future for Man’s Best Friend

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As we continue to become more closely acquitted with our furry friends, they may end up offering more benefits to us than we can imagine. 

Not only do they make fun travel companions, but they also provide life-changing attributes to their owners, hospital patients, veterans and the elderly. It’s been clinically proven that dogs have helped people overcome illnesses, such as anxiety, and even helped with extreme cases of PTSD in Veterans.  

As we continue to learn more about how a dog’s sense of smell can help us sniff out illnesses and other life-threatening diseases, they might hold the key that drives a technological discovery that will aid their human companions and inspire advancements in the healthcare industry. 

Until then, we’ll keep petting and appreciating our canine friends for all the unconditional love and support they provide, each and every day.

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