Benefits of Animal Therapy

Our Therapy for Veterans Animal Program

 

The Therapy Animal Program demonstrates that positive human-animal interventions improve the physical, emotional and psychological lives of those we serve.

Animal-assisted activities provide opportunities for motivational, educational and/or recreational benefits to enhance quality of life. This may mean social interactions with those recuperating in the hospital, visits to retirement homes or even stress relief events at Veteran Events.

Animal-assisted therapy is when a therapy animal team is overseen by a professional Animal Trainer and trained animal as part of a goal oriented and structured therapeutic intervention.

The benefits to recipients of visits are indisputable and the body of supporting research grows daily. Interactions with animals have been shown to decrease the perception of pain, lower blood pressure, promote care compliance, and minimize anxiety.

 

For Mental Health Benefits:

 

 The simple act of petting releases an automatic relaxation response

 Humans interacted with their Animals and found that stroking the animal promoted the release of

serotonin, prolactin and oxytocin–all hormones that can play a part in elevating mood.

 Lowers anxiety and helps people relax

 Pet interacyiond can reduce loneliness, stress and anxiety and promote feelings of relaxation.

 Friendly animals can decrease anxiety and sympathetic nervous system arousal by providing a

pleasant external focus for attention

 Heart patients’ anxiety ratings dropped by 24% when visited by an animal.

 Patients’ levels of epinephrine, a hormone the body makes under stress, dropped 17% when visited

by an animal.

 Provides comfort

 The hypothesis that friendly animals can decrease anxiety and sympathetic nervous system arousal

by providing a pleasant external focus for attention, promoting feelings of safety and providing a

source of contact comfort has been supported by much of the research conducted to date.

 Loneliness is one of the most damaging risk factors in people recovering from heart disease.

Studies have shown that patients who suffer heart attacks but own pets are likely to have five

times the survival rate of patients who are not pet owners

 They can decrease loneliness and depression by providing companionship, promoting an

interesting and varied lifestyle and providing an impetus for nurturing.

 Reduces boredom

 Decreases feelings of isolation, depression and alienation

 In fact, loneliness is one of the most damaging risk factors in people in recovery.

 They can decrease loneliness and depression by providing companionship, promoting an

interesting and varied lifestyle and providing an impetus for nurturing.

 Brightens emotional outlook

 Humans interacted with their pets and found that stroking the animal promoted the release of

serotonin, prolactin and oxytocin–all hormones that can play a part in elevating mood.

 Stimulates communication

 An increase number of spontaneous communication initiations produced during sessions.

 Increases mental stimulation

 Assist in recall of memories and help sequence temporal events in patients with head injuries or

chronic degenerative diseases of the brain such as Alzheimer’s disease.

 Provides physical contact

 Promoting feelings of safety and providing a source of contact comfort has been supported by

much of the research conducted to date.

 Decreases agitation in Alzheimer’s units

 Alzheimer’s patients who have pets in their home are less likely to suffer outbursts of anxiety or

agitation.

 Can provide an escape or distraction from the mundane nature of hospitals and doctor’s

offices

 Can act as catalysts in the therapy process

 May help to break the ice

 May reduce the initial resistance that might accompany entering therapy

For Physical Health

 Lowers blood pressure and improves cardiovascular health

 Pets can lower blood pressure. In a study of 48 stockbrokers with high blood pressure, those who

adopted a pet had significantly lower blood pressure readings in stressful situations than

stockbrokers who did not own a pet.

 Pressure in the heart’s top left chamber dropped 10 % and pressure in the pulmonary artery

dropped 5% when heart patients were visited by an animal and person.

 Pet owners are shown to have a higher 1 year survival rate following a heart attack as well as lower

cholesterol levels.

 Reduces the amount of medications some people need

 One multi-state study found that medication costs dropped an average of $3.80 per patient, per

day, in new nursing home facilities where animals were included in the environment.

 Breathing slows in those who are anxious

 Releases many hormones such as Phenylethylamine which has the same effect as chocolate

 Diminishes overall physical pain

 Good for the animal too!!

 Not only does your heart rate slow down and your blood pressure decrease. But the animal’s does

as well!

In Physical Therapy

 Encourages increased movement in joints & faster recovery

 Maintain & increase motor skills

 Exercise longer

 Stroke patients walked up to 35% farther and 35% faster with pets than with their human

therapists.

 Relax more during exercise

 Results of client-satisfaction questionnaire indicated the participants were motivated, enjoyed the

therapy sessions more, and felt the atmosphere of the sessions was less stressful during AAT

(Animal-assisted Therapy)

 An increase number of spontaneous communication initiations produced during sessions.

 May increase the benefits of occupational therapy

 Occupational therapy participants continue doing therapeutic activities for a longer duration when

animals are present, potentially increasing the benefits of therapy

 Practice reading skills in a less stressful environment

 Read to someone who is non-judgmental

 Ironically, these animals may be able to offer children unique and valuable support precisely

because they are active and willing participants, but with the qualifier that it is outside of the realm

of their communicative abilities to verbally criticize or judge the child’s progress

 Reduces self-consciousness and increases self-confidence

For Children and adults with Autism

 Animal therapy may increase language use and social interaction

 One study found that children with autism engaged in significantly greater use of language as well

as social interaction in their occupational therapy sessions that incorporated animals compared to

standard occupational therapy

 Many people with autism feel a deep bond with animals and feel that they are able to relate

better to them.