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The importance of animals for health

9 January 2020 | Written by La redazione

Increasingly, animals play an important role in managing human health.

Animals can play a very important role in assisting people with disabilities and in therapeutic activities, but if the role of service animals, such as guide dogs, is known to all, there are other ways in which animals can give a valid contribution to medicine.


Early diagnosis. Diagnosis is an essential part of disease management and prevention, understanding what a patient is suffering from, perhaps before these symptoms show, is a fundamental step in treating people. Some diseases modify the delicate biochemical balance of our body and in this way also the molecules that we emit, from sweat to saliva, change biochemical composition. It is at this point that the dogs intervene: their extraordinary sense of smell allows them to identify these modifications and, if properly trained, to report them. To date, the diseases that our four-legged friends are able to identify are many: malaria, diabetes, breast and prostate cancer, Parkinson’s and others.


Emotional support. The role of animals in medicine does not stop at diagnosis: a recently conceived category is that of ESA (Emotional Support Animals), or animals useful to provide emotional support to those suffering from psychological and post-traumatic problems. Among animals, dogs are particularly capable of offering affection and companionship, and therefore of giving serenity and support to owners who present psychic and emotional distress.


In Italy. The use of animals in the care of people in Italy is limited to pet therapy, in which the animal plays an assisting role for practical activities – such as for the blind or handicapped – or a co-therapeutic role, that is, which helps to improve the therapeutic climate, while emotional assistance animals are not recognized and therefore there is no certification attesting their role.

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