As a pet owner myself, I can tell you that having a warm, furry companion can bring joy to your life. Different people prefer different pets, and while I will always have a soft spot for cats, currently I have two dogs. My first puppy as an adult came to me 8 years ago, a tiny little puggle, named Sadie that could fit in the palm of my hand. After 5 years of kisses, snuggles and happy wagging tails, I decided to rescue another dog from the shelter. Next came Pickles, a shitzu with a calm, curious and extremely cute personality.

Elderly Caucasian woman in bedroom at retirement community centeBut don’t take my word for it that animals can have a profound impact on one’s life, in fact, many scientific reports have been published on the benefits and therapy that pets can have on people suffering from various diseases, such as depression, PTSD, dementia, even those hardened criminals locked up in prison have been known to soften up around animals.

So what is the science behind pet therapy? How does it work? And what types of therapy options are out there for us? Pets Care.Young woman holding cat homeSimply put, animals offer companionship and emotional support that generate positive rapport, positive emotions, improved relaxation and a calming effect on their companions.

The Studies Behind Pet Therapy

Pet therapy has been around for eons, and with recent studies showing the range and benefit of this evolving self help option, one can only be curious about how it works. A recent study done by Wu, assessed that the use of Pets at Work, or PAWS, offered therapeutic results between trained dogs and pediatric patients suffering from depression and lowered morale. Therapy Dog Visiting Young Male Patient In HospitalIn addition to the boost of confidence and positivity, the pet visits helped those patients feel more relaxed and had a calming affect before a procedure or after a surgery improving the body’s natural ability to heal itself.

Another study done by Kaminski explored the impact of pet therapy and the use of physical and emotional healing for pediatric patients at the University of Wisconsin’s Children Hospital. Focused on reducing the level of stress and anxiety the patients faced during their treatment, patients that participated in the Pet Pals program displayed more excitement and happiness during their stay at the hospital than those who did not participate.

Treating Depression

  • Uncomplicated Love – if you have suffered from depression, then you know that a complicated relationship can only add to the stress of your life. Pets have been a great antidote offering a simple level of feeling without complications that don’t muck up your emotional state. Teri Wright, a PhD from Santa Ana, California claims, “You don’t have to worry about hurting your pet’s feelings or getting advice you don’t want.”Woman lying with her malamute dog on sofa in room
  • Responsibility – depression leaves many of us unmotivated and fearful of responsibility. Having a pet can actually help you break out of this mentality and provide a new positive focus on your life, giving you a sense of value and importance.
  • Routine – staying focused is another challenge people with depression face, and having a pet that requires you to stick to a wake up time, walk time and meal plan offers a great alternative to keep you on track in life.
  • Companionship – isolation is a major factor for depression, and having a pet that offers constant companionship without the complications of traditional relationships will help pull you back into your circle of friends.

Treating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

  • Reconnect with Feelings – many servicemen and women have learned to shut out their emotions to deal with the horrors of war, and coming back into civilian society, those same individuals can suffer from emotional suppression. Animals have a natural way of allowing us to feel again without the risk of let down or further damage to our emotional state.
  • Companionship – having a companion you can count on no matter what is key to living a healthy and happy life. Middle aged man with a dog (Russian Hunting Spaniel). At the rivAnimals offer just that. They don’t demand outrageous things, don’t play games with your love and relationship, and offer solid companionship.
  • Takes Orders – having a being that takes orders and listens to you can actually prove to be a great healing mechanism, especially for those men and women who are use to such a structure and chain of command, making pets a great way to feel in control.
  • Stress Reduction – stress triggers are the number one cause of triggers in PTSD, having a pet around offers a level of protection, alertness, and comfort for many suffering from this disease naturally reducing their stress levels and allowing them to free up their time instead of anticipating danger.
  • Engagement – sitting around your home and feeling down is easy to do when you are depressed, and having a pet companion forces you to get out in the world and do things. Add in the benefit of a little physical exercise during your daily walks, pets provide a great incentive to stay active.

Treating Physical Health

  • Lending a hand – people with a physical handicap have been using service dogs for years, they offer a great opportunity to help around the house like picking up objects dropped, turning lights on and off, and so much more giving more mobility to those restricted in their own personal movement.Guide Dog Is Attentive
  • Offering Support – in addition to lending a hand, pets offer physical support for those trying to relearn walking and other activities by giving incentive for people to get out and about, move around, and take care of their pet.
  • Translator – service dogs also offer ways to help their owners get the help they need, by barking for help and indicating wants and needs, allowing many people who suffer from speech impairments to see the full benefit of owning a pet and how they can improve their day to day communications.

There are so many different applications for pet therapy that we can’t cover them all, and while this article focuses mostly on canine services, we can’t forget to mention the vast animal kingdom that has continued to help thousands of people everyday. Horse TherapyFrom service dogs, to equine therapy, to simply having a pet that you can love often makes all the difference in the world. If you are suffering from depression, loss of a spouse or loved one, lack of ambition, PTSD, or other ailments, then we encourage you to do a little investigation on your own and see how having a loving pet in your home can help you recover and live a full life. Owning a pet is a great responsibility, but with that responsibility comes great rewards, and if you haven’t considered pet therapy as an alternative to your treatment, then go visit your local shelter and spend some time with those furry friends and see for yourself.Caucasian Man In Sunglasses Sitting In Beach With Friend's Dog B