Pet Therapy

Pets Enhance Quality of Life

By Jennifer Sofia Catalano


age-well.org > self-development > pet therapy


Owning a Pet is a natural antidepressant!

Owning a pet may seem like an additional stress factor and cost but in actual fact the health benefits we receive are life changing and life saving.

Research from the Michigan University has shown that

“Pet owners over age 65 make 30 percent fewer visits to their doctors than those without pets “ *

Animals Bring Health Benefits

Thanks to modern technology and latest research it has now been scientifically proven that owning and interacting with a dog or cat prevents depression, heart disease and high blood pressure.

Whilst some of these benefits can be attributed to the simple fact of exercising more in order to accompany and look after our pet which provides the traditional benefits of additional exercise, our heart rate and blood pressure actually stabilize when petting our animal friends and the mental health benefits are the real surprise.

“A study by Rebecca Johnson, Ph.D., RN, of the University of Missouri-Columbia Center for the Study of Animal Wellness, showed that when a human pets a dog, within minutes they get a massive release of beneficial hormones-known to be associated with health and feelings of wellbeing---such as beta endorphin, prolactin, dopamine, oxytocin, and beta phenyl ethylamine. The release of these hormones not only make people happy---but they also decrease the stress hormone, cortisol. “ *

Pet Therapy Works Wonders

Dog therapy is now being used to help people suffering from various diseases. In hospices and nursing homes, where patients can no longer own their own dogs, the regular access to dogs provides a significant lift from depression and helps fight the pain. This is partly because the dogs provide distraction and are a source of conversation and inter-human interaction which we know provides benefits, versus falling into loneliness or depression, but is also because the dogs sincerely appreciate any attention then patients can give them and reward them with affection, even in some cases jumping onto the patient beds to cuddle in with them. Pet therapy for the elderly has been very successful even though pet therapy training can be time consuming.

Pet therapy with dogs is also used for autistic children and other psychological mental issues in children and adults because they alleviate the stress of the human emotion and allow the therapist to interact via the dogs.

Think About Adoption

Having an animal can be an antidote to loneliness. Interacting with cats, dogs and other pets can be less complicated than interacting with other people, which is often unpredictable. Animals can help focus attention away from the self and bring out our nurturing instinct. They also love us unconditionally.

And yet there are so many dogs and cats in need of a good home that would otherwise be put down.

If you are thinking of getting a dog or a cat you might want to consider adopting one of these abandoned animals, many of whom end up at the rescue center because their elderly owners have died.

There are many advantages of adopting a senior dog as we age. For one thing we are often less able to deal with the excessive energy and destructive behavior of a puppy and an older dog needs less attention and can be an instant companion to accompany you on walks and other outings. They learn more quickly and know, from pack instinct, what it takes to get on with people and fit in. An added bonus is that they won’t chew your shoes or scratch your furniture.

Adopting an animal from a rescue center is a good deed that will bring instant rewards, as your new companion will be grateful for a second chance of happiness and love you unconditionally. The results of your kind deed will have changed two lives for the better.

The Issue of Hygiene

The issue of hygiene is an important one if you have pets at home or even when in contact with other peoples' pets. Following a few rules like thoroughly washing hands after contact with a pet or litter tray will ensure parasites and germs the animal may be carrying are not spread. Teach your pet not to climb on tables or kitchen surfaces and make sure that litter trays are cleaned regularly and kept away from dining and food preparation areas. Use separate utensils for food or use dry food, give pets their own food and water bowls and don't let them eat out of yours. Take your pet for regular check-ups and ensure that it is free of worms or other parasites by using the appropriate sprays, collars or medication.

Volunteer in a Rescue Centre or walk in the Park

But if owning a pet in the home is not an option then interacting with them outside the home is the next best recommendation. You might want to consider volunteering to walk a dog from your nearest animal shelter or just donate your time to working or playing with animals who have been abandoned.

Many people visit animal rescue centers and are not pressurized to donate or take any pet home, but it is a rewarding experience and may be the start of a brand new relationship for you. Many times dogs and cats understand our feelings through their highly developed social understanding of humans, and are known to do so better than other humans, which is why very often they offer us their love before we even realize we needed it.

Even for those people who can have animals at home, it might be a good idea to work with them outside the home initially, to make sure we have the temperament and staying power before making a long term commitment.

Enjoying a walk in the park where dogs go, and observing and interacting with them can in itself be a good technique to stay positive and refresh our inner energy. It is like having our own pet therapy session.

Pet therapy training is another area where you could volunteer to help, perhaps to train dogs specifically for pet therapy with the elderly.

Putting all our positivity techniques together..

We have all been told to fight loneliness and depression through, walking regularly, interacting with others, distracting ourselves and making ourselves useful in the community, but what better way to do this than with a trusted four legged friend as a companion.

And if all else fails, know that..

“Even watching fish in an aquarium can help reduce muscle tension and pulse rate”*

(Sources: * http://www.angelonaleash.org/studies_healingpower.cfm, http://www.holisticonline.com, http://www.srdogs.com/Pages/adopt.ten.html)


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