Pet Therapy

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Pet Therapy
What is Pet Therapy? Pet Therapy is an area that has received increased attention in therapeutic recreation. In recent years, the experts have been relying on pet therapy as a valuable aid in reaching out to the elderly, the infirm, and to ill or abused children through-out the country.” Pet Therapy is the commonly used term for animal-assisted therapy (AAT), animal-assisted activities (AAA) and pet visitation.” It is also recognized at hospitals around the country as a great way to help children cope with the stress and anxiety associated with hospitalization. Pet Therapy is a general term that encompasses many therapeutic activities involving animals as companions or occasional visitors to the sick, elderly, or mentally ill. (DeltaSociety) Pet therapy is now being used to help with a wide range of medical and emotional ailments. Sometimes just one treatment can and does work in alleviating many symptoms. Pet therapy also promotes socialization, improves self-esteem and security, and provides entertainment and acceptance. The visitations provide a warm and comforting presence, patient listeners, and a relaxing interlude to residents of health care facilities... Pet therapy is one of the most rewarding volunteer activities a dog and handler can be involved with and is becoming a popular and important role for many animals, especially dogs. Visits can have a positive effect on a resident or patient's physical health, as well as on his or her emotional health by reducing loneliness and creating a sense of purpose. For the lonely residents of nursing homes, mental health facilities, rehabilitation centers, and homes for the handicapped, holding a warm puppy or playful kitten provides the unconditional love they need so much.(PAWS)

The Benefits Of Pet Therapy For people who enjoy animals, pet therapy offers some solid benefits: better health, more relaxed mood, enhanced connection to the world, improved communication, and the needed chance to play and create. Under direction of health services and education professionals, animal-assisted therapy can promote physical movement, emotional well being, cognitive awareness and social improvement for people with disabilities. In a health care facility, people come out of their rooms to socialize with the animals and with each other. (PawsnHearts)

Pet Therapy can affect a wide variety of patients, including the elderly and those with heart disease, cancer, AIDS, or a mental illness. People benefit from pets in various ways, including:
• reducing loneliness, anxiety, and depression
• increasing self-esteem
• aiding in short and long term memory
• encouraging responsibility and nurturance
• improving motor skills, balance, and speech
• distracting pain
• decreasing the risk of health problems.


The History of Pet Therapy
Florence Nightingale was one of the first people to advocate the benefits of companion animals for the chronically sick.  Animal-assisted therapy really began in the UK in the late 1700’s, although it wasn’t really recognized as such at the time.  The York Retreat, an institution for people with mental health problems, was managed by a Quaker, William Tuke, whose ideas were very forward thinking for the time.  He described how having to care for companion animals gave his patients a sense of purpose and an opportunity to nurture.  Many of the early psychiatric institutions in the UK were associated with resident companion animals, birds, gardens and small farms but by the turn of the 20th Century many of these had been abandoned.  This occurred for several reasons, including a belief that such programmers weren’t cost-effective and a fear of exploitation of the patients as ‘cheap labor’ by asking them to care for the animals.  The advent of scientific medicine at the start of...
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