What Is Pet Therapy? Is It Right for You?

Pet therapy has become a popular treatment method for people of all ages for matters related to mental, emotional, and even physical health. It involves interacting with animals for the benefit of helping a person affected by depression, anxiety, dementia, and many other mental or physical health conditions. The type of therapy can vary widely depending on the requirements of the person seeking therapy. Continue reading to learn more about the benefits, the various types of pet therapy, and more.

Benefits of Pet Therapy

Research has shown us those pet owners are generally less likely to feel lonely. They visit the doctor less often, take less medication, get over illnesses faster, and cope better with stress. One study even discovered that spending only 10 minutes with a pet can start reducing stress hormone levels.

For people of all ages, pets can give emotional, physical, and mental benefits, specifically for seniors at an increased risk for loneliness and isolation.

Emotional Benefits

There are many emotional benefits of pet therapy for seniors, which includes:

  • therapy cat giving high five to human ownerIncreased self-esteem and confidence
  • Decreased social anxiety
  • Reduced risk of depression
  • Lessened levels of hysteria
  • Reduced feelings of loneliness and boredom
  • Improved mental stimulation
  • Increased socialization
  • An improved sense of purpose and meaning
  • Memory stimulation
  • Lowered stress

Physical Benefits

Physical benefits of pet therapy can differ counting on the sort of therapy being practiced but often include:

  • therapy dog sitting ouside Increased levels of exercise
  • Greater mobility
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Decreased pain
  • Reduced risk of depression
  • Improved cardiovascular health
  • Improved motor skills

Types of Pet Therapy

There are three primary types of pet therapy:

  1. Ownership Therapy

    older man receiving attention from therapy dog outsideIn this style, the patient owns the therapy animal. This is often an excellent option for seniors who are active and ready to look after a pet properly. This method requires the ability to walk and exercise the pet, purchase veterinary care, manage grooming services, and all other challenges of owning a pet.
  2. Visitation Therapy

    Visitation therapy is one of the most popular methods of pet therapy for older adults. This sort of therapy involves animals visiting the patient in their home or senior living community. In this method, patients can receive the benefits of pet therapy without having to be responsible for the animal at all times.
  3. Animal-Assisted Therapy

    Animal-assisted therapy is an intensive sort of pet therapy reserved for seniors who need extreme rehabilitation. Seniors are paired with extra sensitive animals, like dolphins or horses, as a part of their therapy to help them with physical and emotional problems.

Which Pet is Best for You?

If you're a senior trying to find a furry companion, or you want to get a pet for your aging relative, you should thoroughly consider your options. The best pets for seniors are those that are most compatible with the individual.

Take a look at the most popular pets for older adults:

  1. Dogs

    older man smiling holding therapy dogDogs can make for a great therapy animal. They are sociable, intelligent, loyal, loving, active, and can be trained. Some of the most recommended breeds for animal therapy include golden retrievers, labrador retrievers, poodles, beagles, pugs, and greyhounds.

    Note, however, that dogs require a lot of effort. They must be walked, cleaned up after, and require more care than some other animals.
  2. Cats

    Cats are one of the best pets for older adults, particularly if the effort of owning and training a dog proves to be too challenging. A house-trained adult cat chosen from a rescue center can be a great option. These cats are content to entertain themselves and require less attention than dogs. Also, unlike dogs which are happy to follow you all around, cats will come to you for affection once they want to – it's all on their terms. As for needs, all a cat requires is food, water, a litter box, a few toys, and a scratching post.
  3. Fish

    Fish are low-maintenance, making them another great option for older adults. Just watching them swim around can be very relaxing and entertaining. It can even promote improved moods and reduced blood pressure. All you need is a small aquarium with a pump and filter, decorations, some fish food, and to regularly take care of the quality of the water.

A Word of Warning

If you're considering getting a pet for your aging beloved, regardless of how caring your intentions are, it's generally best not to settle on an animal on your own. Instead, ask your relative and others that will be affected by the decision, and make it something you all do together.

Let us know in the comments below - Have you tried pet therapy? How has your experience been?
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