7 Benefits of Pet Therapy for the Elderly

7 Benefits of Animal Therapy for the Elderly

Elderly and lonely? You don’t have to be. Did you know that you can give yourself companionship and some therapy all through a pet?

That’s right. Through animals such as dogs, you can receive pet therapy. If you have medical health issues, you can even receive medical assistance through a form of pet therapy called animal assisted therapy.

To ensure that you are capitalizing on all that animal therapy has to offer, we are telling you all about the different benefits of both pet and animal assisted therapy.                   

Get ready to have a new friend!

The Different Forms of Animal Therapy

Another word for animal therapy is pet therapy. What is pet therapy, you ask? Well, pet therapy is guided interactions between a trained animal and a human being. 

People who volunteer their pets for pet therapy help those in need of medical assistance, companionship, and/or comfort. A specific form of pet therapy used primarily for those in need of medical assistance is animal assisted therapy. Animal assisted therapy uses animals to help people recover or cope with health problems such as severe arthritis, heart disease, cancer, a stroke, or mental health issues.

Below we are going to give you some of the key benefits of both animal assisted therapy and pet therapy as a whole.

Animal Therapy Benefit #1: Reduces Levels of Anxiety and Depression

The work of taking care of a dog through animal assisted therapy will distract you from any physical, mental, or medical pain that you are in. This includes everything from anxiety and depression to cancer treatment, heart disease, mental health disorders, and more. You will also receive a sense of comfort knowing that there is a well-trained and calming animal that will cater to as many of your physical and emotional needs as possible.

Because the animals used in animal assisted therapy are screened to make sure that they are vaccinated, safe, clean, well-trained, and well-behaved, you will feel a sense of safety and security with your animal. This safety and security will naturally lower your levels of anxiety.

 The smile and joy that an animal assisted therapy pet will give you will also naturally lower your depression levels, if you are depressed. In fact, studies have shown that endorphins are usually released when one spends time with a pet. Thus, spending time with an assisted therapy animal will increase your endorphin levels, which in turn, will decrease your depression levels.

Benefit #2: Reduces Stress

Along with reducing anxiety and depression, pet therapy is known to reduce stress. This is because of the bond that you will naturally form with your therapy pet. This bond will partly develop simply because of all the time you are spending with the therapy pet.

The other reason why this bond will develop is because of the natural hormones and neurotransmitters that will develop inside of you as you spend quality time with your therapy pet. These hormones and neurotransmitters will increase your feelings of love and bonding. Also, focusing your energy on your pet therapy rather than your health issues or old age will naturally relieve some of your stress.

Benefit #3: Improves Self-Esteem

Having animal therapy will force you to be responsible for another creature. This responsibility will make you become more independent and self-sufficient. This, in turn, will increase your self-esteem as an elderly person.

Benefit #4: Provides Companionship

There is a reason why a dog is a man’s best friend is a saying. This is because smart and social animals like dogs will bond with you over time. All this bonding will cause dogs to have visual and emotional reactions to the things you say and do.

For example, when you leave a therapy dog alone for a long period of time, it will probably begin to bark at some point just to be heard. This level of attachment is a symptom of the companionship that having pet therapy provides you with.  

Benefit #5: Increases Physical Activity

As an elderly person, it is important to keep your body moving. The reason for this is that a body in motion stays in motion and a body in rest stays in rest. Thus, if you do not move your body enough, stiffness in your body along with the likelihood of you falling or having body aches and pains will increase.

Luckily for you, animal therapy will force you to walk your pet. The physical activity that you will gain from doing that combined with the physical activity that you will get running errands for your therapy pet is good for your health. Some of these pet errands that you will have to run to include the vet, the groomers, and more.

Benefit #6: Reduces Blood Pressure

Blood pressure has been known to reduce because of pet therapy. This is great news since blood pressure can lead to serious health issues like heart and coronary problems. This is especially great news for the elderly, as your bodies are more likely to develop long-term health issues.

Benefit #7: Causes Heightened Problem-Solving

Because of the thinking and focus you have to do to give a dog commands, getting a pet therapy dog will heighten your problem-solving abilities. As an elderly individual, this heightened problem-solving will keep your brain sharp.

Equine Assisted Therapy

The most common animal that is used for animal therapy is a dog. Another common animal used for pet therapy is a horse. Pet therapy through horses is called equine assisted therapy.

Benefits of equine assisted therapy include gaining interpersonal relationship skills, receiving brutally honest feedback on your behavior through the horse’s reactions, and mastering the use of nonverbal cues. All these skills are beneficial for elderly people to maintain so that their brains remain sharp.

To learn more about how to help the elderly stay mentally and physically healthy, contact us here today!

Andy Niska