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Therapy dogs in mental health offices becoming more prominent

Therapy dogs have been used for decades, but it looks as though four-legged creatures out there are gaining popularity in psychologists' office, the Wall Street Journal reports.

One medical professional using therapy dogs is Dr. Drew Ramsey, who has his own practice in Manhattan. Every day he brings his 4-year-old Shi Tzu named Gus to work with him in order to calm his patients and promote a comfortable environment.

"We can't hug patients, but patients can hug Gus," Dr. Ramsey told the news outlet. "I think about Gus the way a cowboy thinks of his horse - he's part of the job."

The news source reports that research has proven that those who spend nearly five minutes with a pet show a decrease in the stress hormone cortisol, while nurturing hormones prolactin and oxytocin increase. Also, neurotransmitters that boost mood skyrocket while in the company of a lovable animal.

Experts believe that therapy dogs can help a person struggling with chronic medical issues as well. Those who suffer from intense anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder often turn to animals for peace of mind.
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