Pet therapy is now becoming a popular field in medicine. This kind of therapy helps people to recover from various types of health problems. It is also popularly known as the animal assisted therapy. In this kind of therapy, a structured interaction between a person and an animal is made. The interaction also involves the handlers. The handlers are usually the pet owners themselves or volunteers. Animal assisted therapy has the goal to help people recover from various health conditions such as cancer, cardiovascular disorders, post-traumatic stress disorders, stroke, mental illnesses and many more.
Pet therapy has its foundation on the pre-existing human-animal bond. This natural type of relationship can help a human being to cope with his physical, mental, emotional and social stressors. Dogs and cats are the most common animals used in this kind of therapy. However, other kinds of animals can also be used as long as they passed the screening. The screening involves physical examination of the animal to confirm if it is immunized and free of diseases. The animal also undergoes an obedience course to make sure that it will not cause any harm to the patient. The handler is also oriented and instructed about proper patient interaction.
The therapy begins by letting the animal together with its handler to visit a particular patient. In every meeting, predetermined goals are set. For example, if the therapy involves a meeting between an abused child who suddenly stops talking and interacting with other people and a pet dog, the healthcare provider will set a goal for the meeting. The goal that he can set is to improve the child’s interest to his surroundings by showing cues like looking at the dog, touching it or smiling at it. If these goals were met, another set of goals will be set for the next meeting until the child recovers from his traumatic experience.
Animal assisted therapy are also used to help lessen anxiety among children. Children who will undergo an operation or any invasive procedure can undergo this therapy to help them relax. This can be attributed to the process called “contact comfort”. In this process, the relationship between the human and the animal that forms through touch can help to induce relaxation of the mind and the body.
In the health care setting, interaction of patients with animals can facilitate communication. This is very important for people who are depressed and those who came from very traumatic experiences. Interaction with the animals encourages the patient to talk, show emotions and to bring himself back to the reality of life. Animal assisted therapy does not just help the patients. It also has positive effects to the family members as well. The family members are also prone to a lot of stress. There are family members who have reported that watching pet therapy have also helped them to feel better. And seeing their sick relatives smile again through animal interaction has lessened the burden that they are carrying.
Studies regarding animal assisted therapy have shown that interaction with animals can significantly reduce anxiety, fatigue, pain and depression among people. This type of therapy is continuously improving throughout the years. Nowadays, it is not only used in medical settings. Animal assisted therapy is now being conducted in communities and universities to further spread the benefits that it can give to people.