For a long time, people have kept pets for companionship. Now, modern science suggests that interacting with these animals can also offer a host of health benefits, provided that the animals are gentle and friendly. This is why animal-assisted therapy in hospital is increasingly gaining acceptance and popularity. Today, dogs, cats and other animals can be used to not only lift moods, relieve stress and provide comfort but also to make it easier for people with cancer, heart disease and mental health disorders to cope with their conditions. As this field keeps growing, patients of all ages will be able to enjoy the benefits of therapy animals.
One of the reasons to encourage therapy animals in hospitals is because such animals can play an important part in helping to promote good physical health. This means that having gentle and friendly animals around elderly patients will help in treating several illnesses associated with old age. Interacting with the trained animals will help to lower blood pressure and improve cardiovascular health. In addition, animal-assisted activities are known to encourage the release of oxytocin, a hormone that produces a calming effect. This means that the effect that animal therapy has on our physical health may reduce the amount of medication required during treatment.
In physical therapy
For patients whose treatment options include physical therapy, animal therapy can do wonders. Physical therapy may be necessary when you need to manage diabetes, recovering from an injury or want to avoid surgery. Having these friendly animals around is likely to encourage both young and old patients to exercise longer, stretch farther and move more. Since this is what physical therapy is all about, there is a good chance that the individual will not only have increased joint movement but also have a shorter recovery time. Incorporating daily activities into pet therapy will also increase motor skills.
Today, a wide range of mental health issues can be treated through animal therapy programs. In most cases, patients suffering from mental illnesses such as post-traumatic stress disorder, autism and schizophrenia find it hard to reconnect with the people around them. Even less serious mental conditions like a college student’s end-of-semester stress can be alleviated by contact with animals. By being a great source of entertainment, enjoyment and interaction, these trained animals will help to create a sense of comfort and an environment of trust. Animal therapy would also be instrumental in dealing with depression, reducing feelings of isolation and helping dementia patients to recover their memory. When used to treat depression, the patient is likely to focus on the needs of the animal rather than their own. This helps to develop a sense of empathy in patients, a factor that can reduce depression.
As we touched on a couple paragraphs earlier, animal therapy can also make a difference in pain management. Some patients who suffer from chronic pain will not want to burden family and friends by talking about their pain. This could lead to feelings of self-consciousness and a sense of isolation. With the great suffering associated with physical pain, health care providers will always look for ways to relieve such pain. In this sense, animal therapy is a great supplement or even alternative to potentially addictive pain relieving medicines. Pets such as dogs are known to be loyal and will always be around even when you are having a painful day. The sense of relaxation that petting an animal brings can also help to diminish feelings of overall physical pain. This will help to make patients happier during their stay in hospital.
Medical professionals work hard and spend years in school so they can spend their lives improving and even saving the lives of others. Dogs and cats are the most common types of therapy animal, but other animals can provide therapeutic benefits with the right training and cautions. Animals such as horses, rabbits, birds, fish, dolphins, and even reptiles can all have positive effects on patients.