Animal assisted therapy is gaining popularity in health care and beyond to help people recover or cope with health problems including cancer, heart disease and mental health disorders. The Mayo Clinic has a Caring Canines program where they conducted a study and found that patients were in a more positive emotional-physiologic state as a result of animal-assisted activity sessions. People who interacted with therapy dogs saw their oxytocin levels increase significantly, while their heart rates decreased. They reported fewer negative emotions and more positive emotions. The results suggest a 20-minute therapy dog visit can significantly and positively impact the physical and mental health of patients. The study found the dogs that were involved with the Caring Canines program, which varied in breed, age and size – did not show signs of stress during the animal-assisted activity session and appeared to be more relaxed at the end of the session. For most parameters, there were no changes in the dogs which signals the dogs were not only good at their jobs, but in many cases, enjoyed the work they were doing with patients.
The study is the first to utilize physiologic parameters to provide scientific evidence that animal-assisted activities is a valid option for the management of certain medical disorders. The authors of the study believe that animal-assisted activity should become a standard treatment strategy to help patients manage this chronic condition. Dr. Francois Martin applied behavior and welfare research and determined that we need to do more research to coniine to demonstrate the power of the human-animal bond on people while ensuring assistance animals also experience positive wellness as a result of their work.
Who can benefit from pet therapy?
Animal-assisted therapy can significantly reduce pain, anxiety, depression, and fatigue in people with a range of health problems:
- Children having dental procedures
- People receiving cancer treatment
- People in long-term care facilities
- People with cardiovascular diseases
- People with dementia
- Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder
- People with anxiety
And it's not only people with health problems who reap the benefits. Family members and friends who sit in on animal visits say they feel better, too. Pet therapy is also being used in nonmedical settings, such as universities and community programs, to help people deal with anxiety and stress. The biggest concern, particularly in hospitals, is safety and sanitation. Most hospitals and other facilities that use pet therapy have stringent rules to ensure that the animals are clean, vaccinated, well-trained and screened for appropriate behavior.
Essentially anybody who feels that their pet is a key source of comfort and well-being can qualify for an emotional support animal. There may be certain levels of anxiety, depression and restlessness that are managed by the presence of a pet and can enhance the quat of a person’s life. ESA’s can give their owners a stronger sense of purpose and provide comfort and companionship in a way similar to a sibling, friend or loved one ESA’s aren’t a cure to one’s mental stresses and issues, but can certainly contribute to living a happier and more stress free life.
How does My Dog Become a Service Dog?
Identify and Understanding What Type of Dog You Have.
Find a Trainer You Trust or Train Your Dog Yourself!
Train Your Service Dog.
Pass a Public Access Test.
Consider Service Dog Certification and Registration.
See the link for more information about the benefits of a service animal.