The Health Benefits of Animal Therapy: How Pets Can Help Patients

The COVID-19 crisis has posed a threat to people’s physical and mental health. Think of the lockdowns, quarantine, and home isolation at the onset of the pandemic. It’s good that authorities have somehow made the pandemic restrictions lighter now.

But did you know that animals have become beneficial to pet owners during the pandemic? Consider the surge of pet sales and adoptions amid the COVID-19 crisis. In fact, National Geographic conducted a survey among pet owners revealing that their pets have helped them emotionally cope with the pandemic.

These furry family members can be good for the individuals’ physical and mental health, especially during a crisis. They keep them company, ease their loneliness, offer comfort, keep them physically active, and make them feel good. As such, pets can get used as therapy for patients with other usual medical interventions. That’s where pet therapy comes into the picture.

Let’s take a look at the health benefits of animal therapy. Keep on reading to find out how pets can help patients.

Pet Therapy in a Nutshell

pet-therapy

Pet therapy is what it sounds like — animals providing health alleviation to patients. However, it’s a well-planned interaction between a patient and a trained animal for health alleviation. The ultimate goal is to help a patient recover from an illness. The therapy helps a patient cope with a health problem, whether physical or mental.

Also known as animal-assisted therapy, it is a streamlined set of sessions or treatments that help patients achieve their specific health goals. In most cases, therapy animals visit patients in medical settings like hospitals, nursing skills facilities, and hospice centers. Some therapies require outpatient appointments, while a few others own pets as part of their home health care.

If you’re wondering how pet therapy works, your doctor or a therapist usually manages your session or treatment. It requires a certified trained handler to bring and handle the animal during the actual session. The handler will, of course, follow the instructions provided by the doctor or therapist.

Ultimately, the health professional, pet handler, and patient will undergo proper discussion and deliberation. The goal is to ensure the safety of all parties involved and the overall success of the pet therapy session.

Types of Patients Needing Pet Therapy

Now, you might be wondering what types of patients most likely need animals for their therapy. Individuals with physical health problems or mental health issues may need this kind of therapy.

For physical health, pet therapy applies to cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. It also alleviates those individuals hospitalized with chronic heart failure. For mental health, this therapy helps individuals suffering from anxiety and depression. The same is true for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Other examples are stroke victims needing to rehabilitate and recover and patients undergoing physical therapy to improve their motor skills. Even children needing to see a dentist for a dental procedure can benefit from having pets to ease their fear and anxiety.

Kinds of Animals Providing Therapy

Furry family members such as cats and dogs are the most commonly used for pet therapy. They typically get a complete physical examination to ensure they’re free of diseases. They even undergo an obedience training course sent to a cat or dog boot camp. From there, they assess their behavior and evaluate their interaction with the handler.

Even the trainers themselves get an instructional course about interacting with people and patients. Ultimately, they need to get a certification for pet therapy. Aside from cats and dogs, pet therapy programs also include the following animals:

  • Birds
  • Guinea pigs
  • Fish
  • Rabbits
  • Horses
  • Dolphins

The Health Benefits of Pet Therapy

Now, let’s delve into the health benefits of animal therapy. Know that it varies from one type of health condition to another. It also depends on the health goals a patient hopes to achieve. But for the most part, below are some health benefits of pet therapy:

  • To improve motor skills
  • To encourage physical exercises
  • To boost the self-esteem
  • To improve communication skills
  • To boost social interactions
  • To decrease isolation and ease loneliness
  • To make a patient feel happy
  • To get emotional support and comfort
  • To reduce stress, anxiety, and depression
  • To reduce boredom

At this point, you now have a robust idea of what animal therapy entails. Most importantly, you now know the health benefits of pets. But as a patient, consult with your doctor about the pet therapy you’ll undertake as a support for your conventional medical interventions. Ultimately, having furry family members can foster your overall health and well-being.

Scroll to Top