Animals, especially dogs, seem to have a special ability when it comes to healing. This is evident in the amount of pet therapy animals available for a wide range of therapeutic jobs. These therapies can be suited for people suffering severe disabilities, children who have difficulties learning, or even the elderly who just need a companion. Petplan will take you through what pet therapy is and how it all works.
What is pet therapy?
To keep it simple, pet therapy is when animals are trained for a specific reason to help people whether it is to improve a patients social, emotional, or cognitive functioning. Many of these animals will visit hospitals, hospice wards, nursing homes, rehabilitation centres and other areas where therapy pets may have a beneficial impact on someone’s life. Any animals can be used as a therapy pet, although dogs are the most common due to their helpful and lovable nature.
Benefits of pet therapy
There has been scientific research done on therapy pets which has concluded that there are a number of benefits, even when just patting a dog or cat. These benefits include:
- Decreased blood pressure and stress
- Improved communication and memory
- It can change the way a patient responds to the situation as pets can make them brighten up and chatty as they play with the animal
- Increase social skills and self-esteem
- Reduces anxiety and depression
- The animals can motivate the elderly to exercise and stay healthy as they give them a feeling of being ‘needed’
- An improvement in motor skills may be seen with the assistance of an animal
- Reduces boredom and feelings of loneliness and isolation
How does it work?
As there are a wide range of therapy pets, they need to go through a screening stage first where they will undergo special training. This will involve extensive training on how to behave as well as real life situations so that the animal doesn’t get scared or panicked when they are helping those in need. These animals usually are well socialised, have basic obedience training, and understand how to interact with people who may be using crutches, wheelchairs or scooters.
Pet therapy has been scientifically proven to be beneficial in a number of rehabilitation and aged care facilities. They create not only a better environment for the patient, but the animal also improves their morale and overall willingness for the patient to rehabilitate.