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Have you met your doctor’s dog? An increasing number of physicians are taking their pooches to work on a daily basis, a trend that seems to be finding favor with many patients. As a breed akin to dedicated “therapy dogs,” that visit hospitals and nursing homes to calm and cheer up patients, a family companion animal hanging around a doctor’s office can help ease some of the tension patients feel during a visit.
Stroking a dog is known to lower stress – it increases levels of hormones that promote nurturing and security, such as prolactin and oxytocin, and helps boost mood-enhancing neurotransmitters, including serotonin and norepinephrine.
In a recent article on this practice, the Wall Street Journal reported that most of the dogs that “work” at doctors’ offices have also been trained in obedience and as therapy dogs.
But no training can explain their sensitivity to patients’ emotions, which many of these doctors’ office dogs appear to have. Some experts have speculated that the canines pick up tell-tale scents that humans can’t detect but that let the dogs know what’s wrong.
If you’re afraid of dogs or allergic to them, by all means mention that when making an appointment with a physician who has a canine assistant. If not, you may find that the office dog makes your appointment much less stressful.