PETS

Pet Therapy: what it is and why it is so important in caring for the sick and beyond

Medical practices are evolving to give more and more space to the emotional component in healing. Pet therapy fits right into this new space. It is a therapy that uses companion animals, mainly dogs of specific breeds, as a support to regular traditional therapies.

Pet Therapy is used in so many areas: for example, it is useful in cases of hospitalized and long-term patients to improve mood and combat depression. It is also used to help sick children establish a better communication channel with doctors. Elderly care is also becoming very focused on pet therapy.

It has already been scientifically proven that pet therapy improves mood, lowers stress, and promotes better patient recovery, despite the fact that it is simply an accompanying therapy and not an actual cure.

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Pet Therapy: what it is and why it is so important in caring for the sick and beyond
Medical practices are evolving to give more and more space to the emotional component in healing. Pet therapy fits right into this new space. It is a therapy that uses companion animals, mainly dogs of specific breeds, as a support to regular traditional therapies. Pet therapy is used in so many areas: for example, it is useful in cases of hospitalized and long-stay patients to improve mood and combat depression. It is also used to help sick children establish a better communication channel with doctors. Elderly care is also becoming very focused on pet therapy. It has already been scientifically proven that pet therapy improves mood, lowers stress and promotes better patient recovery, despite the fact that it is simply an accompanying therapy and not a real cure.
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The birth of pet therapy: Levinson's theory
The theory of pet therapy was born by chance. Psychiatrist Levinson, in 1953, was treating an autistic child who could not communicate. One day, in the office, this child found the doctor's dog and, not at all frightened, began to play while waiting for the psychiatrist to finish with another patient. The child immediately formed a bond with the animal, and at the end of the session expressed a desire to return to play with the dog, Jingles, again. This was extraordinary, as this child never expressed any personal wishes because of his condition. Thus, this psychiatrist understood that it was easier for the little patient to express his problems through a third vehicle, the dog, rather than confronting the adult directly. Thus, the child's emotions were filtered by the presence of the dog, and this was a huge discovery.
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Pet Therapy Animals
Only so-called 'companion' animals are used, not wild animals, for two reasons. They are more gentle with humans, and using wild animals would be a violation of the 'Universal Declaration of Animal Rights.' Specifically, it is important to find the right animal for the individual patient based on personal needs. Usually, the animals used, also based on location, are dogs, cats, donkeys, horses, parrots, dolphins, and hamsters.
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The benefits of pet therapy
Pet Therapy is useful for many different diseases and conditions. It can bring psychological relief to the elderly, people living in nursing homes and lonely people. For autistic children, animals are a very important communication medium to express their emotions in a way they feel safe. In addition, patients suffering from Alzheimer's and other types of dementia with an hour and a half a week in the company of animals seem to report a decrease in restlessness, insomnia, and even falls. It also helps a lot for people long in hospital, those suffering from post-traumatic stress or other conditions of severe psychological distress. The important thing, however, is to rely on professionals who are now common all over the world.
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People involved in pet therapy
Pet Therapy is not simply getting a dog and walking it around, but it is a now-certified course of treatment that involves the involvement of qualified professionals who know how to combine the right therapy with traditional care. Some of the people involved are, for example, educators, veterinarians but also family doctors or pediatricians, specialists, companions, and social workers who work and collaborate with each other.
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The physiological effects of the presence of animals
Besides having important psychological effects, Pet Therapy, and more generally the closeness with an animal, also has obvious and measurable physical effects. For example, as also stated by the Italian Istituto Superiore di Sanità 'it reduces anxiety levels, blood pressure and heart rate. In addition, physical contact with an animal induces a reduction in blood levels of the hormones responsible for the stress response (cortisol). At the same time it causes an increase in the amounts of hormones and neurotransmitters that can bring about positive emotions (endorphins and dopamine) and reduce anxiety and stress. This also leads to an improvement in relationships with others and in mood (through the stimulation of oxytocin, a neuropeptide secreted by the hypothalamus)'.
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20/06/2024
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