For six weeks Christian Tiesmeyer worked as an intern for the website. Among other things, he has earned a reputation for our bibliography, and created English and German abstracts of articles. The following post is from him.
The literal meaning of oxytocin is ‘quick birth’ if you translate it from old Greek. This is hardly surprising considering it accelerates the birth process and ensures a strong bond between mother and child. The hormone has a very particular meaning, however, when talking about forms of social interaction. It encourages social interaction, reduces stress and anxiety and strengthens the attachment and trust in other people. Oxytocin is also a seriously important factor of well being.
Eye Contact with Animals Encourages the Production of Oxytocin
Interactions with dogs cause very similar effects in humans. Through contact with a dog, improved social behaviour and reduced anxiety and stress was found. This therefore suggests that oxytocin is produced not only by human communication, but also through social interaction between man and dog.
This theory was tested in a study that examined oxytocin levels before and after an interaction with a dog. After having contact with the dog, a higher level of oxytocin was apparent. The levels were especially high when eye contact with the dog was initiated and sustained. There was therefore a link between positive effects through contact of the dogs and the release of oxytocin; interaction with dogs triggers the release of the hormone that makes us happy and strengthens bonds.
The oxytocin concentration increases through social interaction between two people in both participants. Therefore the question arises whether dogs also benefit from the interaction and generate oxytocin when they come into contact with humans.
And indeed; an increase of Oxycontin levels was also observed in dogs. It is believed that this amazing bond is similar of that between a mother and child. The increased levels of Oxytocin ensures that the human has a stronger dedication towards the dog, which then produces more oxytocin. The dog rewards its owner with a look of affection, which in turn leads to more care and contact.
Pet Therapy: Oxytocin as Medicine?
The special effects of oxytocin can play an important role in treatment of certain illnesses. Depression or social disorders such as autism can often lower trust in other people and their surroundings. However, by encouraging interactions with dogs, this facilitates the trust and bond to other people. Therefore, owning a dog encourages not only general well being but can also be a natural form of natural therapy for certain illnesses.
However, not all of the effects of the hormone have yet been investigated, so it can not yet be used as a drug. Currently, further research is being conducted into how to treat certain illnesses with assistance- or therapy- with an increase of oxytocin.