What can pet therapy potentially achieve?

What can pet therapy potentially achieve?

No matter the contradictions in research findings, there’s little dispute that there is a beneficial human-animal bond, to some degree. Hence, the reason for domesticated animals in the home. An animal interacts with people a little differently than do many human beings. Many animals are non-threatening and their level of affection is remarkably accepting. This enhances a bond and promotes a beneficial relationship. This bond is capable of promoting improved physical and emotional (mental) states through interaction.

Beneficial effects, which have been studied and produced positive findings, irrespective of other research teams assessing the subject according to different criteria, include:

  • Improved overall heart (cardiovascular) health (and reduced risk of stroke)
  • Improved blood pressure levels
  • Improved assisted movement of ill individuals, as well as independent movement (i.e. walking)
  • Improved joint movement, balance and overall fine motor skills
  • Enhanced motivation to be more mobile or active
  • Endorphin secretion (for an improved psychological state) and the hormone, oxytocin (promoting happy feelings)
  • Enhanced self-esteem
  • Improved social skills, activity participation (a renewed willingness to join in) and verbal communication (including better interaction with others)
  • Improved ability to focus (attentiveness)

Pet therapy is most often aimed at achieving the following:

  • Reducing depressive symptoms (including anxiety or even grief) and promoting joy (happiness)
  • Helping to improve a person’s overall outlook on life (promoting a sense of purpose and quality of life)
  • Alleviating feelings of loneliness and isolation, or boredom through companionship
  • Promoting healthier levels of self-control
  • Aiding in the teaching of nurturing and empathetic skills, especially in children
  • Helping to improve the quality of relationships and building of trust (e.g. helping a child to become less fearful or distrusting of their adult healthcare provider or therapist)
  • Helping to promote teamwork
  • Aiding in the improvement of problem-solving skills
  • Improving the treatment relationship between a patient and their healthcare professional, particularly those who are resistant to emotional expression during therapy (psychotherapy / ‘talk therapy’)
  • Helping to reduce problematic behaviours
  • Working to enhance the effect of conventional medical therapies
  • Providing comfort and enjoyment for interaction recipients (and an animal) which is fulfilling
  • Aiding in providing a temporary, but positive distraction from more negative challenges
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