Animal therapy is a guided interaction that involves a person, a trained pet and the animal’s handler. There’s two types of animal therapy, animal-assisted therapy (AAT), that are formal and structured sets of sessions that help people deal with specific issues during their treatment, and animal-assisted activities (AAA), that is more like a casual interaction. Animal therapy can help people with any disease to improve their mental and physical condition.
Dogs and cats are the most common animals used in therapies, but there can also be used guinea pigs, horses, dolphins, and many others. The type of animal chosen depends typically on the therapeutic goals or necessities of a person’s treatment plan.
How is animal therapy administered?
Before a pet and its handler can participate in animal therapy, they have to fulfill certain requirements that are needed to ensure the safety of both the person receiving treatment and the pet. This requirements are:
- Obedience training course to ensure proper animal control.
- Instructional course to teach the handler about the pet’s interaction with people.
- Physical examination of the animal to confirm that it’s free of diseases and immunized.
- Evaluations of the animal’s temperament and behavior.
- Certification from the sponsoring organization.
Once the pet is approved, is assigned according to its type, age, breed, size, and behavior to the patient it will be most helpful for.
Many hospitals have an animal-assisted therapy program; if you’re interested in participate, you can ask your doctor about it, or maybe it could be your doctor the one who recommends you the program. As soon as you agree to participate a trained handler will take the animal to meet you and will work under your doctor direction to help you reach your goals. After the visit, you’ll probably be smiling, feeling a bit more optimistic and a little less tired and you’ll be looking forward to the pet’s next visit.
What are the benefits of animal therapy?
Interacting with a pet can bring multiple benefits and help to deal with many physical and mental issues. It can release endorphins, which produce a calming effect and can also help reduce blood pressure and improve overall cardiovascular health. The pet-human interaction can help reduce stress, alleviate pain, and improve your overall psychological state.
Animal therapy program usually improves motor skills and joint movement, increase verbal communication, improve assisted or independent movement, develop social skills and help motivating willingness to exercise.
Other benefits of being part of animal therapy include decreasing loneliness and isolation by giving you a companion, reducing anxiety because of its calming effects and helping lessening depression.
Who should consider animal therapy?
Animal therapy can be used for many purposes and may help people like:
- Residents in long-term care.
- Children with physical or mental diseases.
- People undergoing chemotherapy.
- People hospitalized with chronic heart failure.
- Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.
- People undergoing physical therapy to regain motor skills.
- People with mental health disorders.
- People who have sensory disabilities.
What are the risks of animal therapy?
The biggest risks of animal therapy are safety and sanitation related. People who are allergic to animal dander may have reactions during animal therapy.
While uncommon, human injury can occur if unsuitable animals are used, animals may also suffer injury or abuse if they’re handled inappropriately. In other cases, people can get to attached with the pets that giving them up after the therapy can result in low self-esteem and depression.
Even if it’s not in assisted therapy, you can adopt an animal and take care of it. It will have the same effects, and you won’t have to say goodbye after treatment, you’ll have a partner and a never-ending source of love.
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