Understanding Pet Therapy

June 17th, 2019

Pet therapy is a way of helping people through the strength of the animal-human bond. It is an ever increasing area that sees all types of animals (in particular dogs) aiding in people’s recovery or helping them cope with their health problems that can include heart disease, cancer and mental health issues. Interacting with a friendly pet can help many physical and mental issues.

Not only is pet therapy related to health problems, it can also be used for a more general purpose of brightening someone’s day by providing comfort and enjoyment for nursing home residents. Goals will be set depending on the type of therapy the pet is needed for, and will continue to be used until these goals are reached.

The main goals of pet therapy include:

  • Improving motor skills and joint movement
  • Increasing self esteem
  • Improve assisted or independent movement
  • Increase verbal communication
  • Develop social skills
  • Motivate willingness to exercise
  • Improve happiness and your outlook on life
  • Decrease loneliness
  • Reduce boredom
  • Reduce anxiety
  • Improve the relationship between you and your healthcare professional

Pet therapy can be used for multiple reasons, each having a different effect on the patient/person. At a hospital, the pet can come for visits to take the persons mind of what is going on, allow them to smile and alleviate the stress they may be feeling. They are also commonly used with medical procedures as the patient feels more comfortable and has less anxiety when the pet is present. Through the use of therapy dogs and other pets, people in rehabilitation will often feel more motivated to recover and practice their therapy with the pet around. More often than not, people who have sensory disabilities find it easier to communicate with an animal than they do with a healthcare provider.

The success of pet therapy often depends on establishing realistic goals and expectations that they can help in reaching. Different types of goals and situations will require all types of pets ranging from dogs and cats to other animals such as guinea pigs and even fish.

Whether it be through rehabilitation, helping the elderly, or assisting someone with a mental or physical health problem, people of all ages and backgrounds are being helped one way or another through pet therapy.


The opinions expressed here are the personal opinions of the writer. Content published here does not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Petplan.

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