Relationships

Pets and Arthritis

Confession: This post may just be an excuse to post many pictures of my puppy, who will turn 1 year old this Saturday. So I’ll get one photo out of the way now. I didn’t grow up with a dog for many reasons, and as a child I was actually terrified of dogs and would cry if they barked at me. It wasn’t until I began dating my husband, whose family always had dogs, did I begin to grow fond of them. My husband and I finally got a puppy last May after many months of planning. We chose a Rat Terrier because his family has three Rat Terriers and we were very familiar with the breed. As a rookie dog owner, I wanted a breed that I was comfortable with and had an idea of what they would be like. We also liked their size, growing to about 20-30 pounds, not too small but also small enough for our apartment living. He is the best!
So I started to think about how having a dog has changed my life so far this year and I came up with some positives and negatives.

Positives: 
  • He makes me smile and laugh
  • He provides unconditional love
  • It requires me to be active by needing to walk him, exercise him and play with him
  • I am never lonely
  • I have someone to vent to besides my husband (this is true! I totally talk to my puppy like he can understand every word I say)
  • It provides me with the responsibility to care for something else

Negatives:

  • It is expensive to provide food, vet bills, dog walkers, etc. 
  • As a young puppy he didn’t sleep well, there were lots of early mornings and sleepless nights
  • House breaking a puppy can cause many carpet stains!
  • He always has energy-sometimes he has lots of energy when I don’t!

So I did some research about if my thoughts about dogs are consistent with experts opinions about whether dogs (or cats) are beneficial for people with chronic illnesses. After weeding out the many results about dogs with Arthritis, which is one of the most annoying responses when you tell someone you have Arthritis, “Oh, my dog has that!” Nope. not the same. I found one research study from 2012 on the effect dogs had in a waiting room in a outpatient chronic pain patient. The researchers used certified therapy dogs and they recorded the pain levels and mood of the patients and family members when the dogs were present, and when they were not. They determined that 23% of the subjects demonstrated a significant difference of a 2 point decrease in their pain level or increased mood than those subjects who did not have the dogs in the waiting room. You can read more about the study here, Animal-Assisted Therapy at an Outpatient Pain Management Clinic. Other research has shown that having dogs around can decrease heart and blood pressure, slow breathing rates, decrease stress hormones like cortisol, increase endorphins and boost immune systems. So what are you waiting for?!

There are factors to think about before going out and getting a dog tomorrow, especially if you have RA. Here is a great article that discusses some things to consider before buying a dog. A smaller dog breed may be easier to care for, lift and walk but may also have more energy then a larger dog. There are lots of adult and senior dogs at shelters, who are already trained and may have less energy then a puppy. So if a dog does seem like it may be right for you. Good luck and much love to the puppies! Oh and Happy Birthday Turner!
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