Pet therapy may help put a collar on depression
Imagine a form of therapy that provides instant comfort, true happiness, and lasting friendship. This new healthcare trend has legs─and patients may even be able to experience the benefits in their own backyard. By increasing physical activity and promoting socialization, animal-assisted therapy is helping children and adults cope with depression, anxiety, and loneliness through the support of gentle animal companions.
Pet therapy is gaining not only admirers, but the respect of clinicians as well. In fact, more practitioners are praising the virtues of animal-assisted therapy as pets motivate patients to reach goals related to self-esteem, social skills, and relaxation. This allows providers to add one more resource to their toolbox of treatments outside of modern medicine.
“Our physicians love the animals,” said Allison Bowring, patient activity coordinator at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, MO. Allison is part of the hospital’s Facility Dog Program, which launched last year through support from private donors.
The program’s two golden retrievers, Hope and Hunter, are trained to help children facing challenges, and provide gentle bedside relaxation to families during tough times.
“Not only are clinicians advocates of the program, but many have dogs of their own and understand the comfort these animals bring,” said Allison.
Interacting with a friendly pet may help:
- Increase endorphins, resulting in feelings of calm
- Lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and heart rate
- Reduce mental fatigue, depression, and inactivity
So the next time patients are looking for a buddy to watch the game with or to challenge them to a two-mile walk, suggest a furry friend or two. The therapeutic benefits might just surprise you.