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Understanding Pet Therapy
Pets have amazing healing abilities. Today, more than ever, this is evident by the amount of pet therapy, companion animals that grace many with their presence. So, what exactly is pet therapy and how does it all work?
The facts are out. Our pets can help heal the mind, body and soul. The evidence is overwhelming.
Pet Therapy is when companion animals are specifically trained to help those suffering from illness or in need of some special attention. After being screened and tested, many of these animals visit hospitals, hospice wards, nursing homes and other therapy related areas, where a little love and care from a pet is required.
Patting a dog or cat (or just being in their presence) can have positive and proven advantages. Some of the benefits include:
- Reduces stress
- Reduces blood pressure
- Reduces anxiety and depression
- Increases social skills
- Increases self-esteem
- Increases communication skills
- Increases motor skills
- Encourages movement and stretching
- Decreases boredom
- Decreases feelings of isolation and loneliness
With this in mind, it only makes sense that allowing screened pets into places where they can assist is a wonderful thing. Today, Animal Assisted Therapy is on the increase and many professionals depend on these great pets to help out in times of need. From giving a reassuring cuddle or pat during a dental visit, to helping the elderly with their motor skills and self-esteem.
In Sweden, where it is mandatory to register canines, a study revealed that dog owners are at a lower risk of suffering from a stroke and heart failure. This is linked to the likelihood that dog owners are exercising daily. Plus, the positive physiological effects that owning a dog brings.
Recently, the completion of a 10-year study in the UK proved that children are much more likely to confide in their pets than in their siblings or friends. This special bond is very helpful for children, who are dealing with a disease such cancer or adults dealing with lengthy treatments.
In Japan, research indicated the release of oxytocin (the feel-good hormone) when you look into your pet’s eyes. This hormone also has a big calming effect on humans. Dogs and cats also provide comfort, ease boredom and decrease feelings of depression or loneliness.
According to the US National Library of Medicine, when pet therapy was introduced to 59 hospital patients and then compared with baseline treatment, patients had a significant decrease in pain, respiratory rate and negative mood state, as well as a significant increase in perceived energy level. Quantitative and qualitative findings provide support for decreased tension/anxiety, fatigue/inertia and improved overall mood. Basically, they found that pet therapy is a low-tech, low-cost therapy that improves mood and is meaningful to hospitalised patients.
Patients also speak about how they look forward to their cuddles and visits from their loving four-legged friends. These meaningful interactions will only increase in demand. What a truly wonderful thing!