Connective Issues — Animal Therapy

Over the years I have really enjoyed learning things from smart people like Shannon Goosen at NAMTPT conferences (I miss those times).  I was very interested in her take on the Braverman test. This survey (see link below) determines our dominant nature according to four chemicals in the body; Dopamine, Acetylcholine, GABA and Serotonin. I, like half the population, am GABA dominant. It can also determine if we’re deficient in any of these. I’m pretty mild. There are tables of chemicals and food items to correct any deficiencies. Try it (again), on the link below.

But, there may be another hormone to consider. Oxytocin, aka the ‘love hormone’. Oxytocin is one of four feel good hormones, along with our friends above; Dopamine, Serotonin and also the endorphin group. There are a few ways to increase Oxytocin. Listening to music is one. I’ve heard it both ways. Listening to quiet, rhythmic Baroque music can help lower blood pressure, and listening to loud so-called ‘thrilling music’, music that sends tingles down your spine, can be beneficial. Choral music is also said to work well. I don’t have music playing in my room when I work. I love music so much that my mind would wander off and I would forget ‘it’s all about the patient’. BTW, vinyl rules.

Another way to boost Oxytocin levels is with exercise, but I want to emphasize that touch also boosts Oxytocin. I’m not one for hugs and cuddles with my clients (known to be good though) but therapeutic touch is our Oxy booster.

I’ve just read a lovely book called ‘Running with Sherman’ by Christopher McDougal. Chris is the author of the classic non-fiction book ‘Born to Run’, which I’ve read many times. Sherman is a rescue burro; very neglected, underfed, mangy and kept in a filthy barn. He’s almost lost the will to live. Chris decides to adopt and rehabilitate Sherman and give him a purpose in life and some fun, fueled by his kids.

Coming from a running background, Chris found out that there is a thing called burro racing in Telluride, Colorado. He decides to attempt to train with Sherman to help him rehabilitate. Throughout this journey he needs lots of help. Burros are prey animals and are alert and over-reactive to a puddle, a sign post, even their own shadow. Chris finds donkey mentors.

Sherman loves his neck being scratched and everyone who does it gets a jolt of Oxytocin. But Sherman doesn’t even know he’s a donkey until he meets Flower and Matilda, two other donkeys. Running with Sherman is wonderful; a story with so many twists and turns. Chris tries to get into the mind of a very smart animal, and realizes how much we can learn from animals. Goats also feature in the Sherman turnaround too.

A search of ‘pet therapy’ in PubMed will get you 31k results. Animals have been used for therapy to help in post-partum depression, PTSD,  ADD, low attentiveness, and poor non-verbal behaviour. I know therapists who have pets in their clinic (hey Erika). Animals reduce fear and anxiety and improve mood and depression, all good things to consider with our complex patients. Even a goldfish will do.

I’m going to add to my 4-page Medical History intake form the question ‘Do you have a pet(s)?’ Everyone should have pets. My own moggy will be eighteen in a couple of months. She’s the head my household with her bossiness, noisiness and aloofness.

Cheerio for now,