Pet therapy is a controlled relationship between a well-trained animal and a person. The animal’s handler is also involved. The aim of pet therapy is to help people recover from mental problem or live with a health condition. Dogs and cats are the most common animals used in pet therapy. Fish, horses, rabbits, guinea pigs, birds (they enhance social interaction and help keep the mind sharp) and any animal that meet screening criteria can also be used.
The kind of animal chosen majorly depends on the therapeutic goals of a patient’s treatment plan. Pet therapy is also called animal-assisted therapy (AAT), which is a formal, organized set of sessions that helps people reach certain goals in their treatment. Animal-assisted therapy includes more casual meetings where an animal and its handler communicate with one or more people for comfort or fun.
In this article, I will be talking about the benefits of pet therapy and how they help patients cope with certain health conditions.
Pet therapy is centered around the pre-existing human-animal bond. Communicating with a harmless pet can help treat certain physical and mental conditions. Pet therapy can be used in many ways. It helps when there is a defined goal so progress of patients can be recorded or documented. Pets enhance health benefits of owners. Research has shown that:
- Pet owners are at lower risk of suffering from depression than people without pets.
- People with pets have lower blood pressure in harsh situations than those with no pets. A study showed that when a hypertensive person adopts a dog  from a shelter (or anywhere), their blood pressure reduces greatly within five months.
- Interacting with a dog, cat or other pets can increase the level of serotonin and dopamine, which help to reduce stress.
- People with pet have lower triglyceride  and cholesterol  levels (signs of heart disease) than those with no pets.
- People with pets older than 65 make 30 percent less visits to their physicians than people without pets.
- Heart attack patients have increased life span when they have a pet.
One of the major reasons for these health effects is that pets give the basic human need for touch. Research has shown that hardened criminal in prison show changes when they are allowed to interact with pets (dogs or cats) and experience mutual affection for the first time. Hugging, touching or stroking a friendly animal can have calming effects on people when they are stressed. Pets also help to reduce loneliness and many dogs are a good stimulus for healthy physical activities which enhance the mood and reduce depression.
These are other benefits of pet therapy:
Taking a dog on a hike, run or walk is a fun thing to do and can help to put healthy daily exercise into your schedule. Studies have shown that people that own dogs are more likely to meet their daily required exercise requirements, regular exercise for the animal also helps to keep them healthy. Taking dogs on these adventures also helps to enhance the pet-owner emotional connections, as well as remove any behavioral issue in the dog and keep you fit and healthy.