Visiting your local ‘pet provider’ may be your next visit to the doctor’s office. Man’s best friend could be benefiting our health more than we realize.
Pet therapy is a growing trend in healthcare, helping people recover and cope with their health problems.
How Pet Therapy Benefits:
Pet therapy involves animal-assisted therapy and other animal-assisted activities.
Animal-assisted therapy utilizes dogs or other animals to support patients who are recovering from or coping with health problems like heart disease, cancer, and mental health disorders.
On the other hand, animal-assisted activities provide comfort and enjoyment for nursing home residents to enhance their life experience on a daily basis. These general activities can really make a difference in how patients feel.
Animal-assisted therapy can significantly reduce pain, anxiety, depression and fatigue in people with a range of health problems:
Children having dental procedures
People receiving cancer treatment
People in long-term care facilities
People hospitalized with chronic heart failure
Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder
Not only does the ill person reap the benefits, but the family members and friends who sit in on animal visits say they feel better, too. Animals also can be taught to reinforce rehabilitative behaviors in patients, such as throwing a ball or walking.
In addition, pet therapy is being used in nonmedical settings, such as universities and community programs to help people deal with anxiety and stress.
Would You Participate?
If your doctor came into your hospital room and offered the animal-assisted therapy program, what would you say?
After learning more about the program, an assistance dog and it’s handler would come visit you in your hospital room for about 10-15 minutes. Petting and loving on the dog while asking questions to the handler can be very therapeutic for a patient who may be depressed and in need of affectionate interaction. The fact that dogs have unconditional love beaming from their hearts is sometimes overlooked, but in this case, their doggy love is significantly valuable.
The assistance dog leaves you smiling, feeling a little less tired and more optimistic. The patient can’t wait to tell their friends and family about the charming canine who brightened their day. This heartfelt interaction is something patients look forward to each day while being confined in a dismal hospital.
Possible Risks Associated
As you can imagine in a hospital, the biggest concern with pet therapy is safety and sanitation. Rigorous rules are set in place to ensure that the animals are clean, vaccinated, well-trained and screened for appropriate behavior.
It’s also important to note that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has never received a report of infection from animal-assisted therapy.
Mayo Clinic in Action!
The Mayo Clinic’s Caring Canine program has more than a dozen certified therapy dogs who make regular visit to various hospital departments and even make special visits on request. These friendly dogs help reduce the stress and anxiety that so many of us feel when visiting a hospital.
WATCH: Meet Fraser, a black lab-golden mix, who has been spreading comfort, compassionate care and joy to the faces of countless patients since 2007. Catch a glimpse of how pet therapy is a source of alternative care for those in need.
Reader – How do you feel like dog therapy would help you or a loved one when depressed at a hospital? Would you opt in?