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Animal Assisted Therapy

Hi everyone, thanks for checking out this article in our Animals in Health series! This article covers Animal Assisted Therapy, where animals can help improve healthcare outcomes. Happy Reading!

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For a while now, many hospitals have been implementing animal-assisted therapy, so not only do people get to enjoy the companionship of animals at home, but they get to do so in a less pleasant setting such as a hospital room. Animal-assisted therapy is a form of therapy that involves animals in the treatment process by developing a bond between the patient and therapy animal. It’s usually used for patients dealing with mental health issues, however, patients with other conditions reap benefits as well.


Where did animal-assisted therapy even begin?

Animal-assisted therapy began in Ancient Greek by the use of horses to benefit the mental health of the ill through horseback riding. In the 1940s, the Red Cross, an organization that provides relief and protection for health services, began using farm animals to aid injured/ill veterans, which actually helped them forget about their trauma from the war. The first formal study on animal-assisted therapy was in 1961 by Dr. Boris Levinson. At the time, he was working with a socially withdrawn young boy and left him alone with his dog. To his surprise, the young boy was actually interacting with the dog. Through this, Levinson accidentally discovered “pet therapy.”


Benefits:

Asides from enjoying the company of an adorable animal, participants may reap many benefits from animal-assisted therapy. Simply interacting with therapy animals can reduce blood pressure, stress, depression, and aggression. It even makes it easier for health professionals as it calms down the patients and increases their trust in the professional through the reduction of the former’s negative emotions. In patients struggling with addiction, animal therapy was found to teach patients boundaries and boost their self-esteem.



Cons:

Although animal therapy is loaded with benefits, there are some drawbacks that should be taken into account. One is that there hasn’t been enough research done on the benefits of animal therapy. As a result, it is supported mainly by anecdotal evidence. There’s also an issue with costs as animal therapy requires a lot of resources (ex: food, veterinary costs, training, housing), which many patients struggle to afford, so it’s difficult for all facilities to include it as an option. Lastly, there’s a small safety concern, which is almost rare to happen, but isn’t a perfect 0% occurrence rate. Even though most of the animals used for animal therapy are domesticated, there’s always a risk of an attack.


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Thanks for reading this article in our Animals in Health series! We hope you enjoyed learning about how animals can make a positive impact through assisting with therapy. If you enjoyed reading this article, check out our article on how frog skin can be beneficial to healthcare, linked here.


Until next time,

Sabrina and the Writing Committee :)




Sources:

Animal-assisted therapy for cancer patients may help ease stress, Lift Spirits. Cancer Treatment Centers of America. (2022, October 12). Retrieved November 25, 2022, from https://www.cancercenter.com/community/blog/2020/07/animal-assisted-therapy-cancer-patients

Center, C., & Center, A. C. (2020, June 2). Benefits of animal assisted therapy. Advanced Counseling Services. Retrieved November 25, 2022, from https://advancedcounseling.info/benefits-of-animal-assisted-therapy/

Changing the world through AAI: The history of pet partners: Pet partners. Pet Partners | Pet Partners is the nation's largest and most prestigious nonprofit registering handlers of multiple species as volunteer teams providing Animal-Assisted Interactions. (2021, July 8). Retrieved November 25, 2022, from https://petpartners.org/blog/changing-the-world-through-aai-the-history-of-pet-partners/

MediLexicon International. (n.d.). Animal therapy: How it works, benefits, and more. Medical News Today. Retrieved November 25, 2022, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/animal-therapy

Pet therapy. Tiny Tails to You. (n.d.). Retrieved November 25, 2022, from https://www.tinytailstoyou.com/event-type/pet-therapy

Pros and cons of animal-assisted therapy. American Addiction Centers. (2022, September 15). Retrieved November 25, 2022, from https://americanaddictioncenters.org/blog/pros-and-cons-of-animal-assisted-therapy

Sussex Publishers. (n.d.). Animal-assisted therapy. Psychology Today. Retrieved November 25, 2022, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapy-types/animal-assisted-therapy#how-it-works

Ulery, G., & Ulery, G. (2017, January 3). Animal assisted therapy - A brief history. pdresources.org. Retrieved November 25, 2022, from https://blog.pdresources.org/animal-assisted-therapy-a-brief-history/



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