Animal therapy or pet therapy refers to the use of animals as a way to help people cope with and recover from some physical and mental health conditions.
Animals may be able to provide comfort, alert others if someone is in danger, or even perform direct actions to help a person’s condition when they are in need. It is a type of complementary or alternative therapy. It should augment but not replace other treatments
Animal assisted therapy helps the patients by:
- reducing boredom
- increasing movement and activity through walks and play
- providing companionship and decreasing loneliness
- increasing social interactions
- improving mood and general well-being
Goals of Animal assisted therapy:
Animal therapy can have several goals, and these will determine how it works. The type of therapy and target for this therapy may change depending on the condition and the type of aid that a person needs. Some examples include:
- providing comfort and reducing levels of pain
- improving movement or motor skills
- developing social or behavioral skills
- increasing motivation toward activities such as exercise or interacting with others
Improves physical health:
Some forms of animal therapy may also help with markers of physical conditions, including:
- heart failure
- pain from cancer treatment
- postoperative recovery
- recovery after a major stroke or another condition that causes a person to lose motor skills
Improves mental health
- decreasing anxiety and stress
- decreasing perceptions of pain
- reducing feelings of fear or worry
- increasing feelings of social support
- providing motivation, stimulation, and focus
Risks of animal assisted therapy:
While animal therapy may be helpful for people with certain health issues, it may not be right for everyone.
Some people may be allergic to the animals that commonly play a role in therapy.
Others may simply be uncomfortable with or afraid of the animals. They may not choose this type of therapy as it would cause them more stress.
Animal therapy is a complementary treatment. It is not a basis for the treatment of any condition and should only enhance or complement other treatment. It is not a replacement for other forms of therapy, such as psychotherapy or physical therapy.
This form of therapy might not suit everyone, however. People who do not respond well to animal therapy or are not interested in trying it may ask about other options. These alternatives will vary depending on the person’s condition.