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Pets And Parkinson's Study

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Pets And Parkinson's Study

The School of Population Health at the University of Auckland, supported by Parkinson's New Zealand, is conducting a study in New Zealand which aims to understand how pets can help people with Parkinson's Disease. One of the participants taking part in this study is William.

William was diagnosed with Parkinson's 10 years ago and he and his family got their dog Leo in June 2010. He says having Leo means he "gets plenty of exercise running around after the dog". His daily walks with Leo also give him an opportunity to meet and talk to other dog owners. Many people living with Parkinson's find themselves becoming isolated and lonely as their condition makes getting out and socialising more difficult. These walks are a social opportunity William wouldn't get if he didn't have Leo. Caring for Leo also means he has a routine to his day as he has to get up and feed him every morning. People living with Parkinson's can find it difficult getting motivated and can find planning their day a challenge. William's wife Mary-Anne describes his routine with Leo as good for setting him up for the day. "Leo gives him a reason to get up in the morning. He also gives him someone else to care for. Whenever we are going out William wants to know if Leo will be coming with us. Leo gives him something else to focus on".

Research has shown many health benefits associated with owning a pet for people living with other illnesses, but the benefits for people with Parkinson's has not yet been investigated. In the UK neurologists at Charing Cross Hospital are reporting the case of a woman whose walking, appetite, sleep and social life have all improved since she got a dog.

The School of Population Health are looking for another 25 Auckland based people to be interviewed as part of this research. They are looking for people with dogs and/or cats who also have Parkinson's. If the findings of this study confirm there are real benefits of pet ownership, this may support programmes to assist people with Parkinson's to own or care for a pet in their own home, or support the introduction of pets into care homes.

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