Man’s Best Friend (and Healer): The Power of Pet Therapy
We’ve all heard the saying “a dog is a man’s best friend,” but did you know they can also be healers as well? Pet therapy and healing animals have become a growing trend in the healthcare field. Healing animals can be a vital component to the health of some patients, and have become more utilized in the medical field.
What is pet therapy?
Pet therapy is a general term that encompasses animal-assisted therapy and other animal-assisted activities. According to the Mayo Clinic, “animal-assisted therapy is a growing field that uses dogs or other animals to help people recover from or better cope with health problems, such as heart disease, cancer and mental health disorders.”1
How do healing animals help patients?
Scientific findings have found that the bond between an animal and a human can be extremely beneficial. According to NPR, “one of the earliest studies, published in 1980, found that heart attack patients who owned pets lived longer than those who didn’t. Another early study found that petting one’s own dog could reduce blood pressure.”2
Healing animals can help reduce pain, anxiety, depression and fatigue in people with a range of health problems. According to the Mayo Clinic, “animals also can be taught to reinforce rehabilitative behaviors in patients, such as throwing a ball or walking.”1
Simply put, healing animals can be a key component to a successful recovery.
Are only dogs and cats healing animals?
While a dog may be man’s best friend, dogs aren’t the only animals with the ability to heal. Nature’s Corner Magazine says, “Many animals from dogs and cats to rabbits, llamas, dolphins, and horses have played a role in the healing process.”3
How do patients get healing animals?
Encourage your patients to look around at clinics and hospitals in your area. Some places, like the Mayo Clinic, have their own healing animal programs that they operate right in their facility.
Outside of medical institutions, there are many organizations that have programs set up to match people with healing animals. The American Kennel Club has a list of therapy animal organizations across the country.
It’s important to note that people do not have to own healing animals to reap the benefits. There are many programs set up where patients simply visit healing animals.
Animals truly have the power to heal, and could potentially be an untapped resource for your patients!
Have you encountered a patient who has benefited from pet therapy? Tell us in the comments below!