AlzU Blog

The Benefit of Dog Therapy for Alzheimer’s Disease

Everyone knows that a dog is man’s best friend.  Dogs have been used for pet therapy for some time.  The benefit of animal companions is scientifically proven to lower blood pressure and heart rate, reduce anxiety and depression, and even extend the life of the owner.  Another important benefit dog companionship offers is to decrease stress hormone (cortisol) levels.  For these reasons, dog therapy is being considered for help with Alzheimer’s disease.

There is no doubt that pets are great for us.  With all of the health and wellness benefits dogs provide, it’s no wonder that senior centers and dementia care facilities are beginning to adopt dogs to benefit the well-being of residents.

Dogs and Alzheimer’s Disease

Other than the obvious fact that dogs can provide companionship and feelings of well-being when they enter the room, other benefits of dog therapy can actually help with symptoms of memory loss in Alzheimer’s disease (AD).  Increased cortisol levels are suspected to raise the risk of heart disease and what’s good for the heart is good for the brain.  High levels of cortisol, the stress hormone is a predisposing factor in risks for AD. 

In addition, dogs may help to trigger good memories in individuals with AD-particularly in seniors who owned a dog in his/her younger years. 

But although there are without a doubt benefits to introducing dogs to some individuals with AD, keep in mind that not all interactions will turn out positive.  If a dog is too high energy, it’s presence could cause a negative reaction in some folks with AD.  Selecting a dog with a calm demeanor and cheerful temperament is important. 

The time of day may come into play as well when it comes to providing a good response to dog therapy.  Keeping in mind that many individuals with AD may experience Sundowner’s symptoms later in the day, a morning visit may be best.

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