Hounds Heal Hearts

Dogs Found to Help Heart Patients,
as Well as Lift Spirits

Fox News - Feb. 19, 2006 - Nico the Shih-Tzu and Kolya the Great Pyrenees make the rounds at the UCLA Medical Center.

For the sickest patients, like Elizabeth Pratt, who had a heart transplant three years ago and now is back in the hospital, the dogs may not only lighten moods. They may also help mend bodies.

"He knows who the sickest patients are and just zones right in on them," said Kolya's owner, Betty Walsh.

Researchers at the hospital studied the effects of dog therapy on nearly 80 heart patients. They inserted a long catheter into the heart to measure a change in stress levels before and after the dog visits. After just 12 minutes with the dogs, the patients improved.

"The results of the study validated what we thought to be true all along and what we could see with our own eyes but we just didn't have it tangible," said Kathie Cole, a cardiac nurse at UCLA.

The researchers found that anxiety levels fell 24 percent and stress hormone rates fell 17 percent. Pulmonary pressures dropped 10 percent.

"It means that the patients will have less trouble breathing, will have a better prognosis," said Dr. Joshua Goldhaber, director of the hospital's coronary care unit. "Those are the key things from a patient's perspective - plus they'll feel better mentally."

(edited by David Van Alstyne)
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