If you have a pet of your own, you know what it feels like to open your front door to immediately be greeted by kisses and hugs in the form of licks and jumps into your arms. Or to have a warm companion that cuddles up next to you when you are watching television on the couch on a Sunday morning. The mental and physical benefits of owning a pet have been proven. Even just spending a few hours with an animal is known to boost someone’s mental and physical well-being.
This boost in happiness even occurs in us when we are already in good spirits, so imagine what benefits this could have for an individual who may not be as emotionally or physically healthy. This is why pet therapy has been around for centuries, with the first therapeutic potential of animals being recognized in the late 1800s and increasing in popularity ever since then.
Pet therapy is a strategy implemented by health professionals to assist in improving a patient’s social, emotional, or mental functioning with the use of animals. They are commonly used in situations where individuals are experiencing loneliness, stress, or trauma that is life-altering. Dogs and cats are the most popular animals used in pet therapy, but, depending on a person’s preferences or treatment plan, other animals like horses, fish, guinea pigs, and even dolphins have been used before.
What are the mental benefits of pet therapy?
People who receive emotional support from animals often feel less lonely and isolated after every session because it encourages more socialization and companionship. Snowballing off of that, pet therapy also decreases feelings of anxiety and depression by providing comfort to those who might not get it often. Here are some other mental benefits of pet therapy:
- Helps children overcome emotional disorders and speech complications.
- Provides clients with more motivation to recover faster from traumatic events.
- Lessens feelings of boredom.
What are the physical benefits of pet therapy?
Aside from the obvious mental health benefits of pet therapy, many people don’t realize that it provides many physical benefits as well. Individuals with increased physical demands experience improvement in assisted or independent movement. It also helps to lower blood pressure and overall physical discomfort. Higher levels of oxytocin are released, producing a calming effect in the brain, which may actually reduce the amount of medication that some people need to take to alleviate pain.
Considering having your own therapy pet?
If you already own a pet, there are ways to have them certified to be your very own emotional support animal. However, you would need to be authorized for this service and there are a number of qualifications that would have to be met. You can learn more here and if you and your pet meet all of the qualifications, it’s definitely something to consider! It could be really beneficial to you.
A few months ago, a video of a support duck named Daniel The Duck went viral. His owner, Carla Fitzgerald, struggles with episodes of post-traumatic stress disorder. After Daniel was officially declared her emotional support animal, she takes him everywhere so that he can calm her when he senses that she is about to have an attack. Watch the video here: