Animals whose healing powers might surprise you


Those of us who own pets know they make us happy. But a growing body of scientific research is showing that our pets can also make us healthy, or healthier.

The use of pets in medical settings actually dates back more than 150 years, says Aubrey Fine, a clinical psychologist and professor at California State Polytechnic University. But it was only in the late 1970s that researchers started to uncover the scientific underpinnings for that bond.

Animals can also act as therapists themselves or facilitate therapy — even when they’re not dogs or cats.

For example, psychologist Fine, who works with troubled children, uses dogs in his practice — and also a cockatoo and even a bearded dragon named Tweedle.

“One of the things that’s always been known is that the animals help a clinician go under the radar of a child’s consciousness, because the child is much more at ease and seems to be much more willing to reveal,” he says.

While humans have gone to extraordinary lengths to remedy their various ailments with pharmaceutical concoctions, some animals won the evolutionary lottery by being able to produce their own natural healing powers.

Research has uncovered a bounty of potential for curative cooperation within the animal kingdom lately, and recent discoveries about certain animals’ DNA gifts might hold the key to improving our own health, too.

Dogs might be able to speed up their own wound recovery process with a little lip service; owners should stick to stocking the medicine cabinet for their own boo-boo treatments.

In 2014, one giant rat in Mozambique was successfully trained to sniff out tuberculosis in Africa, and since it’s an airborne disease, his ability to detect the disease with humans at a safe distance is considered invaluable to saving lives.

The properties of the venom, experts say, can decrease the thickness of blood, preventing the kind of clots that cause many human strokes to become severely disabling, or even a death sentence. By purifying the substance, and giving it to stroke victims within a limited window of time, these experts believe they can reverse the potential for the clot to be life-threatening or cause irreparable brain damage, saving lives and increasing quality of life for stroke survivors as well.

According to Scientific American, cats emit their purrs at a frequency between 25 and 150 hertz, a range that has been proven to improve bone density and healing in human beings. The noise and sensation has also been linked to stress and blood pressure reduction, and improving joint mobility for those with disabling conditions.

According to researchers from the University of Missouri, children within the spectrum of autism can benefit greatly from having a pet in the home.

Psychiatric service dogs are now regularly assigned to patients with mental wellness, like post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, grief, depression, anxiety, and even bipolar disorder, because they can be individually trained to respond to their caretakers’ individual needs. Pet therapy can increase a human’s level of oxytocin release, which in turn has healing properties and long-term health.

With humans, one traumatic wound can lead to severe bleed-out or infection and can be fatal, but dolphins can patch themselves up from the nastiest of gashes with amazing speed and continue on with their daily lives, relatively uninhibited by pain. Dr. Michael Zasloff from Georgetown University told

The compound in dogfish sharks’ tissue, called squalamine, can fight deadly viruses, like dengue fever and hepatitis, which are very hard to treat with ordinary medicines. He also suggested that squalamine might potentially stop cancer cells from multiplying at a molecular level, and it is now used to treat macular degeneration as well. However, more studies are currently underway, to determine its effectiveness against the spread of cancer.


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