I love it when science "proves" things we intuitively know as humans.
Researchers at the University of Missouri took blood samples from people and dogs before and after a session of heavy petting. In the people, they found elevated levels of serotonin, the lack of which seems to be a central cause of clinical depression. They also found elevated prolactin and oxytocin, two feel-good chemicals. Rebecca Johnson, who's leading the research with Richard Meadows, said:
“Our research also is trying to determine what types of people would best benefit from being with animals. By showing this benefit, we can help pet-assisted therapy become a medically accepted intervention that might be prescribed to patients.”
No word yet on the blood work on the dogs, but Johnson said her team will look at that as well. I'm betting dogs are packed full of those cuddle hormones.
The article was reprinted by About.com.