April is Autism Awareness Month.
“Anxiety is one of the biggest challenges facing individuals on the autism spectrum.”
Pet Dog May Help Reduce Risk of Childhood Anxiety: Study
By Timothy Weesner
Anxiety in children is a normal reaction to stress and can actually be beneficial in some situations, but if it interferes with their day-to-day living, it is time to seek an expert’s help. Anxiety disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and phobias, to name a few, are among the most common mental disorders experienced by kids and adults.
Interestingly, having a pet might greatly reduce kids' chances of developing any of the above symptoms. "There is a very strong bond between children and their pets," Dr. Anne Gadomski, a practicing pediatrician and researcher at Bassett Medical Center, Cooperstown, NY, told NBC News, on the basis of a study conducted by her and her colleagues. The study was published in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease. "Animal-assisted therapy with dogs affects children's mental health and developmental disorders by reducing anxiety and arousal or enhancing attachment," says Dr. Gadomski.
The study, done in a real-world setting, enrolled 643 children aged four to 10 over the period of July 2012 to December 2013. Prior to the study, a parental survey was done to assess a child's physical and mental health, nutrition, physical activity, apart from difficulties with emotions or social interaction. Among the participants, 57.5 percent had a pet dog, while 42.5 percent did not have any. The study concluded that 21 percent of children without pet dogs scored above 3, indicating a further assessment to diagnose anxiety, while only 12 percent of children with dogs had a score of 3 or higher.
The findings revealed that the presence of pet dogs at home was associated with reduced incidences of childhood anxiety. This companion animal improves a child's emotional and mental well-being and may prevent the evolution of behavioral and mental problems into full-blown mental diseases during later life. According to the researchers, "Because this was a cross-sectional study of associations, a correlational study, no cause or effect can be inferred." "It may be that less anxious children have pet dogs or pet dogs make children less anxious," they added.
What makes dogs so special for kids?
Previous studies suggested that children aged 7 or 8 consider pets as providers of comfort and self-assurance. Pet ownership brings a multitude of positive effects on humans and fosters a calm and happy atmosphere at home.
According to a group of researchers from the Basset Medical Center, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and the Dartmouth Medical School, "If exposure to pet dogs during childhood is inversely related to mental health problems, positive child-dog interactions could prevent the evolution of these problems into full-fledged disorders during adolescence or later life."
A canine companion drives up levels of oxytocin (a neuropeptide that influences social behavior and emotion) and reduces levels of cortisol (a hormone which controls metabolism), which ultimately reduce childhood mental illness, behavioral problems and obesity.
"Social interaction of humans and dogs may also lead to increased oxytocin levels in both the human and the dog. Interacting with a friendly dog also reduces cortisol levels most likely through oxytocin release, which attenuates physiologic responses to stress," the researchers opined in the study.
Path to Recovery
Although anxiety is a normal part of childhood, it can become a serious problem when children experience fear, nervousness and shyness, and start to avoid places and activities. They may also start enduring these problems with anxious feelings, which can manifest as crying, tantrums, avoidance, headaches and stomachaches as they do not usually recognize that their fear is irrational. For more information or if you suspect that your child is suffering from anxiety, it's time to act immediately. Please seek help for your child.
Editors Note: Many children who suffer from overwhelming anxiety, especially in social situations, may have undiagnosed Autism Spectrum Disorder, also known as Asperger’s. They may not know how to cope with their anxiety or fears, such as in overwhelming social situations, and may present as having a “tantrum” when they are actually having a uncontrollable meltdown. If this sounds like your child, please seek a diagnosis from a professional. Autism awareness is essential.
This was originally posted in April 2016.
Timothy Weesner is associated with anxiety disorder treatment in Arizona for many years. Anxiety disorder treatment in Arizona provides assistance in finding anxiety disorder treatment recovery centers and anxiety disorder treatment centers in Arizona. For more information or if you suspect that your child is suffering from anxiety, it's time to act immediately. There are some good anxiety disorder treatment centers in Arizona that offer specialized program depending on individual needs. For more information on anxiety disorder treatment in Arizona, call our 24/7 helpline number at 866-425-9317. The experts at Anxiety Disorder Treatment Arizona helpline will be happy to assist you in your child's struggle with an anxiety disorder.
This story was originally published in our April-May-June editions of Paradise Pets Magazine
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Supporting Those Who Served
When Cpl. Matt Foster left Afghanistan after his tour of duty in 2013, he didn’t know whether he would ever see his K-9 partner again.
For nine months, Foster and Sgt. Mick, a black Labrador retriever, lived and worked together keeping the military compound at Camp Leatherneck and the surrounding area in Helmand Province safe from explosive attack.
After being honorably discharged from the Marine Corps, Foster did not give up in his quest to adopt Mick. The 7-year-old Lab had been discharged for medical reasons, and Foster said he lost count of the number of adoption forms he sent attempting to be reunited with his dog.
Ultimately, Foster’s quest to reconnect with Mick was successful, and they are together again living in Colorado.
“When I first got Mick back, I was worried that I might not be able to take care of him,” he recalled. “After what you go through with your dog in the service and then adopt them afterward, you wouldn’t want to say goodbye to your partner because you couldn’t afford to take care of him.”
Once military and police dogs retire, with no guaranteed pension for their medical care, the burden and cost of care often fall solely on their caregivers. Now an advocate for military dog adoption, Foster has joined The Sage Foundation for Dogs Who Serve and the RIMADYL K-9 Courage program to help other retired military dogs and handlers.
The RIMADYL K-9 Courage Program is a charitable healthcare donation program that, together with The Sage Foundation and National Police Dog Foundation, provides financial and in-kind product donations of $150,000 annually to support the veterinary needs for up to 500 retired police and military K-9s.
Officer without a pension
Despite being considered an officer of his county’s sheriff’s office, Dano is another retired working dog whose veterinary needs and expenses will mount after retirement.
“Dano is an extraordinary dog,” said Senior Deputy Sheriff Danielle Delpit of her K-9 partner. “He’s been injured, tazed and involved in two critical incidents.”
Recently, Delpit noticed that Dano, now 7 1/2 years old, was slowing down and she reluctantly decided it was time for him to retire. After Dano’s retirement, it became Delpit’s responsibility to care for him.
“While on active duty, Dano’s veterinary care was covered. But now that he is retired, it is up to me,” she explained. “Dano has injuries; he has a bad back and I know he will eventually have arthritis. The RIMADYL K-9 Courage Program will give me peace of mind to know I’ll have help to give him the healthcare he deserves.”
K-9s in service
An estimated 1,775 military dogs are actively working to protect military personnel. Each dog saves as many as 150-200 service men and women by detecting explosives and hidden weapons caches.
The Sage Foundation for Dogs Who Serve (www.sagefoundationfordogs.org) works to promote the welfare of dogs who have faithfully served in wars, police work, crime prevention and rescue. Their work includes education and public awareness, as well as making medical care available for these hero dogs.
Law enforcement dogs are used at the local, county, state and federal levels, and are considered full-fledged police officers. Unlike their human counterparts, however, these officers do not receive a pension.
With a mission of making K-9 teams mission-ready and self-sustaining, the National Police Dog Foundation (www.nationalpolicedogfoundation.org) provides funding for the purchase, training and medical needs for police dogs through retirement.
Learn how you can support retired police and military dogs at www.rimadylk9courage.com.
Sources: Family Features | Zoetis
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