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Pet Therapy

Pet therapy can be beneficial in a wide variety of situations. Its purpose is to assist in recovery or in coping with a health problem or mental disorder.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information states: “Almost 65% of American households have at least one pet. That means that your loved one likely has benefited at some point from having a pet in their lives. If this was a positive experience for them, you might want to consider some form of pet therapy for their senior years.”

Pet therapy includes animal-assisted therapy and other animal-assisted activities. Animal-assisted activities include animal visitation programs and other informal activities, such as providing comfort and enjoyment for nursing home residents. Animal-assisted therapy is a more “structured” approach and has been proven to significantly reduce pain, anxiety, depression and fatigue in people with a range of health problems. Some examples include:

  1. Children having dental procedures

  2. People receiving cancer treatment

  3. People in long-term care facilities

  4. People with cardiovascular diseases

  5. People with dementia

  6. Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder

  7. People with anxiety

Dogs and cats are most commonly used in pet therapy. However, fish, guinea pigs, horses, and other animals that meet screening criteria can also be used. The type of animal chosen depends on the therapeutic goals of a person’s treatment plan. Interacting with a pet can help many physical and mental ailments. It can help reduce blood pressure and improve cardiovascular health. It has also been proven to release endorphins, producing a calming effect. This helps alleviate pain, reduce stress, and improve overall psychological health. Other benefits may include: improving motor skills, joint movement, willingness to exercise, and interactions with others. Likewise, people engaging in pet therapy have reported decreased depression and loneliness, improving overall happiness.

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