According to several studies, interaction with dogs significantly reduces pain and emotional distress in chronic pain patients. At first glance, it would appear that dog ownership would be helpful for fibromyalgia sufferers. However, this study was done with therapy dogs, calm by nature and very well-trained. Few people have dogs like these. Untrained, misbehaved dogs are a whole lot more common. Dogs like these can have the opposite effect — especially on fibromyalgia sufferers whose bodies react negatively to sensory disturbances.
I had the perfect fibro dog, although I didn’t know it at the time. Charlie was an 11-pound Llhasapoo that never shed a hair. He was the perfect size for me — small enough to lift, big enough to hug. Holding him was my favorite thing to do. Stroking his silky fur calmed my anxiety and relieved my pain.
Because Charlie was my first dog I was concerned about housebreaking. I’d read all the books so I felt prepared, but it was a new experience for me. The day he arrived I watched his every move. At the first sign of a squat, I scooped him up and quickly out the door. He was rewarded with a treat when he was finished. After that, he used his dog door every time.
I also was concerned about barking. Loud noises of any kind are stressful to me — annoying at first and painful if continued. I worried needlessly. Other than his daily “Woof” to protect me from the mail lady, this dog was silent.
Although Charlie was much cuter than he was smart, he was anxious to please and to earn a reward. Teaching him commands was fun for both of us. Within a year Charlie and I had passed the therapy dog training test. Dog ownership became much simpler for me then. Wearing his little blue vest, he could go anywhere I went, even to the grocery store.
Charlie’s favorite thing was walking. Because of him, I walked every day. It was the motivation I needed for stretching my stiff, sore body. His friendliness generated friendships with neighbors I otherwise never would have met — a huge advantage for isolated fibro people.
Unfortunately, Charlie didn’t have perfect health. In the 10 years I had with him, he required several surgeries to remove bladder stones. Specially formulated dog food was supposed to prevent further occurrences, but didn’t. Ultimately, he developed colon cancer and departed this world nearly three years ago.
I still mourn his loss. It’s taken a long time to open my heart to another dog. But I’m finally ready, and I’m on the hunt. Knowing what I know about my sensitive body, added to what I now know about dogs, I’m being very selective and alert for negative traits that are, or may become, stressful for me. I also know from experience that perfect fibro dogs do exist. For me, it’s worth the extra time and effort to find one.
Note: Fibromyalgia News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Fibromyalgia News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to fibromyalgia.