Science and the Therapeutic Power of the Human-Animal Bond
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges and for many, not being able to socialize and see loved ones during lockdown, which can have a profound impact on mental health.
During such uncertain times it is essential we explore interventions such as therapy dogs to support our mental health. At Mars Petcare, we are committed to advancing research into the potential benefits of human-animal interaction as a powerful aid for the effective management of a host of conditions across the mental health spectrum. We are passionate to learn how we can leverage the human-animal bond to help people and pets live healthier, happier lives together.
Through our Waltham Petcare Science Institute, we have supported research into the therapeutic potential of animal-assisted interventions for over 10 years.
Our research has shown that:
- Companion animals can help address the loneliness and social isolation epidemic
- Therapy dogs can help boost college students’ attention, memory and tackle stress
- Pet dogs provide stress relief for children
- Therapeutic horseback riding can benefit children with autism
Recent research, supported in part by the International Society for Anthrozoology/Waltham Collaborative Research Award, investigated the effects of walking a shelter dog on improving symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder for military veterans. The study found that veterans with dogs experienced improved heart rate variability and decreased levels of salivary cortisol — both indicators of relaxation and improved stress response.
These findings present a unique opportunity for two often marginalized populations to benefit from one another. While military veterans benefit from an improvement in their PTSD symptoms, shelter dogs receive much needed socialization and exercise. Research like this can help shed a light on interventions that address some of our most pressing public health challenges and can benefit the wellbeing of both people and pets alike.
We will continue to support high quality research to arm decision-makers with the evidence-based information they need to make human-animal interaction available as an intervention for all people who can benefit from it.
At Mars, we are excited to continue exploring how human-animal interaction can play a role in creating a healthier future by building A Better World for Pets® and their people.