By Kristine Sorensen

BOSTON (CBS) – There’s no question when we get a dog it feels like part of the family. Now, there’s evidence that bond with our dogs may be stronger than we even realized.

Just walk into any pet store and you’ll see aisles overflowing with toys and treats for man’s best friend. Many dog owners are happy to spoil their pets.

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“Katie has made my life complete.”

“I love her.”

“Love him. He’s great.”

That’s just a sampling of what some of the moms at a dog training class in Massachusetts had to say about their dogs.

They all admit they feel a real connection with their four-legged family members.

“I think you have a real bond with your dog, the way you do with your kids,” says Brook Muir.

Massachusetts General Hospital Veterinarian Lori Palley set out to test that theory by getting an up-close look inside the brains of moms.

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“We decided to pursue this study to understand the human-animal bond better [and] why we consider them family members and try to begin to understand that,” says Dr. Palley.

In this study, moms of young children had their brains scanned in an MRI while they were shown pictures of their own child and their own dog.

“There were some similarities without a doubt,” says Dr. Palley.

Many of the same areas of the brain were activated in the study when moms looked at their own kid and their own dog. But, there were some important differences too.

A section of the brain that might be critical to the human-to-human bond was only activated when moms saw their children.

Dr. Palley stresses this is a small study and she hopes to build upon this research in the future. But for now, this study seems to support an actual biological connection to our dogs.

“I think what people are seeing, ‘Oh my God, there is something in the brain going on. It’s not just self-reporting that I love my dog and it’s like my child,'” says Dr. Palley.

The science may just be catching up with what some moms and dog lovers already know.

See CBS Boston’s Full Report Here: http://cbsloc.al/1GTtTo8

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Kristine Sorensen