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Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) has been employed for hundreds of years. Over the last century AAT has been shown to be efficacious as an adjunctive treatment modality for a wide range of pathophysiology. The most common animal employed in AAT is the dog. Those animals that are specifically trained for a role in AAT are termed “therapy dogs”. From the treatment of acutely psychotic psychiatric patients to patients recovery from total joint arthroplasty AAT has shown itself to be a useful clinical tool. The biochemical basis for the success of AAT lays in its effect on several neuroactive peptides including oxytocin and Beta endorphin. Numerous studies have shown not only an increase in oxytocin levels in the subjects receiving AAT but also the therapeutic animals themselves indicating the filiative nature of AAT. Unfortunately AAT as a low cost therapeutic intervention has yet to receive widespread recognition by the medical community. However, as more Level I studies are performed investing its potential role across varied pathophysiology we expect AAT to become ever more integrated into the practice of medicine in the future.
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