For many people, dealing with life is difficult. Just like a batter in a baseball game, curve balls come our way – we may take a swing and miss. Or, we may stand there, not sure whether we should move the bat at all.
In the United States alone, anxiety, depression, and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) affect millions of people. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are one of the most common illnesses in the United States, affecting 40 million adults. More than 17 million people in the America are affected by depression, and depression is most prevalent in young people and women. Depression and anxiety can go hand-in-hand.
In addition to counseling and medication, there is another help for people affected by anxiety and/or depression. Many studies have shown animals, like dogs and cats, help people dealing with anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. Pets encourage exercise, like walking and playing with toys. The simple act of petting a dog or cat can reduce stress and lift someone’s mood.
Mental health providers see a positive result when patients obtain emotional support animals. These animals help alleviate symptoms of an emotional or mental disability through their companionship and affection. Although not service animals, like guide dogs, ESAs do receive some protections under federal law. Learn more here: https://www.certapet.com/emotional-support-animal/.
Therapy animals visit hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, libraries, schools, and other places, bringing comfort to people during times of crisis or loneliness. For example, the Lutheran Church Charities K9 Comfort Dogs visit places where natural or human-caused tragedies occur and Read-to-the-Dog programs at libraries bring comfort and confidence to children who struggle with reading and socialization. The elderly in nursing homes and assisted living facilities may feel lonely or rejected; therapy animals (which can be cats, rabbits, dogs, even guinea pigs) ease those feelings. People in hospitals may feel anxious or fearful as well as physically ill; a therapy animal can uplift their spirits and put their minds upon something else. Many school districts embrace the use of therapy and/or comfort dogs in public schools as a way to inspire and assist students. The studies which support pets as healers and comforters have impacted the way medical, mental health, and educational professionals view animals, especially dogs and cats.
Lowering stress and blood pressure are some of the benefits of dogs and cats, whether they’re our pets or they are trained as therapy and/or emotional support animals. Animals provide affection and companionship, and they help soothe the soul. They are helpful in human’s healing processes, whether in their own people or within a stranger.
Consumer Advocate offers a wonderful resource and blog post about pets and their ability to help people with mental or physical ailments. You’ll find that here:
If you experience depression or anxiety, or if you are feeling lonely or fearful, consider adding a pet to your home. If you already have one, take more time with your furry friend – you both will enjoy the extra attention and companionship.
How does your pet help you? Leave a comment below.
A sign hangs on my wall: “My Therapist Has a Wet Nose.” I bought the sign at a pet supply store a few years ago, and the saying is certainly true – in my house and in many other homes. My animals make great therapists – many pets do.
Research shows pets provide great health benefits to people. They can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and add years to our life. Experts tell us that pets help people who suffer from depression. The simple fact that our pets accept us for who we are, they love us unconditionally and are devoted companion, often waiting by the door for our return, makes us smile and builds our confidence and self-esteem. Dogs get us outdoors for fresh air and walks, and cats curl up in our laps and purr. All of these things and more are healthy benefits to people, both emotionally and physically.
People in nursing homes, hospitals, and hospice often feel weak, are in pain, and get discouraged. Many are lonely. Therapy pets raise their spirits, bringing smiles and joy into situations that can be sad and scary. Pet Partners, formally the Delta Society, and other groups certify pets and their owners for visiting these and other public places and studies show these animals provide great benefits to those whom they visit.
Although many people think of dogs when they envision pet therapy, dogs are not the only animals used for such work. Other animals, too, can be and are used in therapy situations; cats, bunnies, guinea pigs, even horses offer therapeutic value in various circumstances.
Unlike people with whom relationships can be complex, unpredictable, and stressful, animals are a great source of stability and companionship. Having a pet in one’s home can be calming and offer comfort when one is ill. Animals don’t change, and their loyalty to their owners and their ability to rebound from tough situations can be inspiring. The simple act of petting a dog or cat can lower blood pressure and bring a sense of calm to one’s spirit. Interacting with that pet in a playful manner can generate enjoyment and laughter. Even watching fish in a beautiful tank can bring about a sense of peace and an enjoyment of splendor through the colors of both the fish and the tank. And, don’t we all need a bit more tranquility, stability, and ability in our lives?
Pets are also a great source of comfort, especially for those affected by natural and other disasters. The K-9 Comfort Dogs from Lutheran Church Charities travel America to help quell the squall people experience after tornadoes, bombings, and other tragedies. Hugging a dog and allowing it to lick away tears of grief, fear, and anxiety brings comfort, and that's the job of the Lutheran Church Charities K-9 Comfort Dogs – and many other such animal-human programs.
No matter what we’re experiencing, we find love, devotion, acceptance and comfort from the furry friends around us … and we can share that special beauty with others by being partners with our pets in helping those in our community and our country through therapy and comfort animal programs.
Have you hugged your pet today? Do so, and put some special pet therapy in your day!
Gayle M. Irwin is a writer and public relations professional who volunteers with various animal rescue groups. She enjoys sharing her books and her passion for pets and the environment with others.