Pet Therapy is Gaining Popularity and Emotional Support


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Pet therapy is not a new concept in itself, but current research is finding new hypotheses, new conceptions, and new theories to study. Grants are becoming readily available for analyzing the health of children, healthy aging for elderly people, mental health, and individuals who are very ill. The good news is that society is opening up to the idea of using animals or pets for various fields of therapy, not just the medical field.

Therapy news that involves pets are proving they reduce stress and tension in certain individuals. New research shows that families with autistic children are becoming de-stressed with pet therapy, while it shows that simply owning a pet improves your own health, mentally and physically, at home and in the workplace.

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Pet therapy is being recognized by a number of scientists, counselors, teachers, therapists, doctors, and elderly caretakers. New studies for long-term effects of pet therapy combined with medical benefits are:

  • Child health and development
    • Autism spectrum disorder
    • Allergies and immunity
    • Child development
  • Healthy aging
    • Cardiovascular health
    • Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia
    • Cancer
  • Mental health and wellness
    • PTSD and trauma
    • Mental health
    • Quality of life

In progress are studies of pet therapy showing that it can help reduce learning deficiencies, behavioral and anger issues among children. Therapy animals are used to enhance motor abilities in people, those who are disabled and the elderly. According to, therapy dogs are being used for emotional support as well.

Pet therapy has stepped out from the medical room and is now entering into a number of different professions to carry out different tasks to help people.

  • Counselors
  • Nurses
  • Nurses’ aides
  • Occupational therapists
  • Physical therapists
  • Program managers
  • Psychologists
  • Reading specialists
  • Recreational therapists
  • Residential coordinators
  • Social workers
  • Special Education teachers
  • Teachers
  • Therapy aides
  • Therapy assistants

Pet therapy and teaching children

On December 12, 2016, a new study began with pet therapy and teaching children, one that would examine their social, behavioral, and academic fields, according to a HABRI press release:

(Washington, D.C.) December 12, 2016, “ The Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) and the Pet Care Trust announced today they had awarded a combined $130,000 grant to American Humane, for a study titled, Pets in the Classroom (PIC): What are the Social, Behavioral, and Academic Effects of Classroom Pets for Children, 8-10 years?

Animals are being used in classes to teach children the effects of pet therapy, focusing on children and children with disabilities. The hypothesis is that children with a classroom pet will show increased: (1) social skills; (2) improved academic competence; and (3) decreased competing problem behaviors. This will be compared to children without a classroom pet.

According to the study’s principal investigator, Dr. Amy McCullough, American Humane National Director of Research and Therapy, the studies are showing pet therapy that works with children has a positive impact on children’s development and well-being.

Autistic children without pet therapy are said to have an attitude of loneliness, combined with being anti-social. Animals assist autistic children in communicating, helping them to open up to people in a comfortable manner.

Pet therapy and therapists

Pet therapy and therapists fall into the AAT category, or Animal Assisted Therapy. It is defined by American Humane Association as,

“… a goal-directed intervention in which an animal is incorporated as an integral part of the clinical health-care treatment process. AAT is delivered or directed by a professional health or human service provider who demonstrates skill and expertise regarding the clinical applications of human-animal interactions.”

There are four things that sets AAT apart from other areas:

  1. It is not dependent on a specific theory.
  2. It does not involve any service animals, who are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  3. It is not limited to dogs and horses alone.
  4. It assists individuals with a wide variety of causes and a wide variety of clinical settings.

It is much easier for clients in AAT to discuss sensitive issues if they are accompanied by a therapy animal, or therapy dog. Pets seem to promote better interaction between the client and his or her therapist. Clients without an animal are more apprehensive to open up to their therapist; the presence of a pet can make it easier and less awkward to communicate.

For some reason or another, pet therapy and therapists have discovered that therapy animals [horses and dogs in particular] have built-in survival skills, according to PsychCentral. This means they are more able to pick up social cues that are extremely important to the relationship between humans. Only then is it possible for the therapist to process the incoming information from the client.

The therapists are then able to immediately show the client how their behavior affects those around them.

Pet therapy and elderly care

Pet therapy and elderly care consist of improving the quality of lifestyles of the aging people. Many therapy pets assist those who are able to indulge in physical activities that involve the animals themselves, such as brushing the dog or horse, stroking them, holding a purring cat, etc.

However, new findings involving the in-home elderly consist of loneliness and how to cope with it. Many lack a social support group and adequate family connections. This is where pet therapy and pets at home come into play.

People never seem to feel alone when they are accompanied by a pet, as animals love unconditionally. They accept 100% without criticizing. They lack judgment, always forgive, and know nothing but offering love and pleasure to their owners. Altogether, this renews a person’s purpose and meaning in life.

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