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Pet Therapy

Pets not only offer companionship and unconditional love, in fact, emerging research suggests they may have the ability to boost health and general well-being, especially in the elderly.

What is pet therapy?

Pet therapy, or animal-assisted therapy, is a type of therapy involving animals as a form of treatment. The goal may be to improve a patient’s social, emotional, or cognitive functioning.

Pet therapy can be offered in a residential aged care setting, retirement living, home and community care, and rehabilitation centres and hospices. Animals used in the therapy may include domesticated pets and farm animals.

Benefits of Pet Therapy

Research has revealed many benefits to pet therapy; some of which may include:

  • Decreased blood pressure and stress
  • Improved communication and reminiscence
  • Many people who are normally unresponsive to other therapies may ‘brighten up’ and ‘chat’ with a pet.
  • Pets may motivate and encourage the elderly to stay healthy and exercise, giving them a feeling of being ‘needed’.
  • Motor skills may improve with the assistance of an animal trained for pet therapy.

How does it work?

Generally, pets first need to undergo special training before being used in pet therapy.

This training may involve going through a range of possible situations with a trainer so the pet is aware of the appropriate ways to respond. It is important these responses are taught so the animal doesn’t panic when faced with a real life scenario.

The animals used in pet therapy must also:

  • Be well socialised, as they will be meeting new people all the time.
  • Have basic obedience skills.
  • Understand how to interact with people using crutches, wheelchairs or other mobility aids.

FAST FACTS:

Did you know pet owners

  • Visit the doctors less often and use less medication
  • On average, they have lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure
  • Recover more quickly from illness and surgery and deal better with stress
  • Are less likely to be lonely

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