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Sorry but there's no evidence 'pet therapy' works, reveal top academics.

There is no evidence that so-called 'pet-therapy' works, according to a Yale University academic.


Practices, such as taking dogs on hospital wards, has shown a 'small-to-medium' reduction in patients' distress, found doctoral student Molly Crossman in her review of the medical literature.


However, she says it's unclear whether the animals deserve the credit as a high number of studies did not control for other possible factors.


Her comments come as hospitals have been urged to let more dogs and other animals on to wards and even into operating theatres to help patients.


The Royal College of Nursing made the appeal after collecting scores of anecdotal evidence of therapy animals helping recovery.


Some young patients found having trained dogs accompany them to the anaesthetic room reduced their anxiety before and after surgery, they discovered.


In a recent RCN survey of 750 nursing staff, 82 percent said pets encouraged patients to be more physically active and 60 percent believed animals improved physical recovery.


But many nurses reported that animals were banned from where they worked due to health and safety concerns.


Crossman, writing in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, notes that the idea that animals are beneficial for human mental health first emerged in the 17th century, when a Quaker-run retreat in England encouraged mentally ill patients to interact with animals on its grounds.


The father of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud believed that dogs had a 'special sense' that allowed them to judge a person's character accurately. His favorite chow chow, Jo-Fi, attended all of his therapy sessions.


Nowadays, the therapeutic effects of animals have become widely accepted. San Francisco airport now has a pig to calm nervous travelers.


More people are bringing 'emotional support animals' on board planes – including turkeys, monkeys and other unusual pets – sparking a debate over whether this should be allowed.


But Crossman said we cannot yet draw clear conclusions on their benefits.


She said: 'The limited body of literature suggests that human–animal interaction produces small-to-medium reductions in distress; however, it remains unclear whether those reductions are because of the animals as opposed to other aspects of the interventions.


'Despite the lack of research progress, the benefits are routinely overstated.'


Keeping a pet is said to be a 'natural antidepressant', as cuddling a furry friend triggers release of the happy hormones serotonin, prolactin and oxytocin.


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