How Therapy Pets Can Help Those with Mental Health Issues
Therapy pets provide a number of health benefit to the people who utilize their services. They support physical and mental health not by performing tasks, as service animals do, but by being there and catering to the emotional needs of the patient.
Those who suffer from mental health issues can also be aided by the presence of a therapy animal.
Therapy pets have private owners who are a certified team together. These owners use the love of their pet to help another to heal or to cope with life.
Many therapy pets are dogs but they can also be cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, birds, horses, lizards and fish and others. They are trained to be gentle, patient, social and hospitable.
The Mentally Ill
Those with mental difficulties are often marginalized by society. They are tucked away so no one can see them. Often, people don’t get help because they are ashamed or embarrassed about their condition.
Mental illness is a real disease and only treatment and awareness will dispel the stigma and stop the problem.
One avenue of support is through pet therapy. These animals are familiar to nursing facilities, hospitals and even schools. Why not companionship for those with mental challenges?
It can be of great benefit to them. Here are some of the conditions that have been helped by pet therapy.
Mental Health Issues and Pet Therapy
Elderly people who may not be able to take care of a pet themselves can still have the benefit of them through pet therapy programs. Regular visits from these animals builds a relationship. The animal looks forward to the visit as much as the other person.
They become a constant to help them remember more, stay socialized and return to normalcy (especially if they are living in a nursing home or assisted living facility).
Therapy animals can draw out children who are on the autism spectrum. These interactions can be used to teach responsibility, physical development, social skills and focus.
Animals can be intuitive and anticipate the needs of those they are serving once the relationship is established. Because animals are patient, children can learn at their own pace.
Equine therapy (horses) has also been shown to improve the lives of autistic patients.
Some mental issues are a result of traumatic circumstances. In these cases, therapy animals are instrumental in recovery through their patience and unconditional acceptance of people.
Caring for the animal is therapeutic in itself. It teaches responsibility, focus and trust. Animals will stay by your side and comfort you when you need a friend. They are fiercely loyal and protective.
Having that support can make the tough road to recovery more bearable.
People with mental health issues can benefit from contact with a therapy pet.
Four Ways a Therapy Pet Can Help the Sick
You may not think that pets and hospitals go hand in hand, but they do. The very presence of an animal in the hospital often causes an uproar – but in a good way. Everyone wants to get in on the fun.
Have you ever been in hospital? It can be a scary place. And, it’s filled with sick people. The environment can also be lonely and isolated with only health professionals coming into your room.
For some, hospitals conjure up visions of pain and death. But, it doesn’t have to be that way.
Pet therapy programs can be found in a number of healthcare facilities.
They are designed to assist patients with recovery and treatment. We have heard about pets increasing good mood and decreasing blood pressure.
They are sensitive to the moods of their owners and strive to soothe them whenever possible. Pets have been used in therapy for people with pain issues (such as arthritis), behavioral issues, mental health patients, veterans with PTSD, nursing home residents and more.
Just their companionship can provide health benefits such as:
- Lower cholesterol levels
- Lower blood pressure (previously mentioned)
- Increased alertness
- Increased balance
- Increased wellbeing and socialization
- Less stress
Who wouldn’t benefit from that kind of therapy? People worry about pets in hospitals but measures are carefully taken to ensure that the animals chosen to participate in these therapy programs are immunized, friendly, clean and well-behaved.
Four Ways to Help Sick People with Pets
1. Face challenges
Pets are a responsibility. Learning to care for them and see them every day can spark a renewed sense of purpose in those who are undergoing chemotherapy or other major procedure. Their bond with the pets gives them a reason to fight on and meet difficult medical challenges with hope and a positive outlook.
2. Shorter recovery time
Many hospital patients who receive pet therapy are reminded of their own pets left behind at home. The therapy pet is a willing surrogate and can also help their recipients to recover faster or need less care so that they can get back home to their beloved dog or cat. Many patients are secretly worried about who will care for their pets while they are away or if something happens to them.
It can be lonely staying in the hospital. Therapy animals make the stay more interesting and less isolated. Patients who may not get a lot of visitors look forward to their daily dog walk or cuddle time.
4. Improved family interaction
Other family members benefit from animal visits as well. The presence of a dog affects everyone in the room. They can forget for a moment and enjoy a laugh and a cuddle with their loved one and their doggie friend.
Sickness doesn’t have to be a lonely experience when therapy pets are around.