The Healing Powers of Pet Therapy

Have you ever stopped to notice your heart rate or your mood when you’re around a friendly four-legged friend? How about the many pet therapy dogs who frequent our hospitals – do you ever consider the impact they’re about to make on an anxious patient?

Having a pet at home means having constant companionship, equipped with loyalty and affection. A survey conducted by the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) yielded various results indicating that pet owners display a strong awareness of health benefits that come with having a pet in the house. Of the 2,000 people surveyed, 74% reported mental health improvements and 54% reported physical health improvements from owning a pet.

Changes in physiology, including a reduction of fear and anxiety, occur in both humans and animals upon human-animal interaction, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA). Further, studies show that pets and therapy animals can help lower stress, anxiety and depression levels in humans, as well as help with feelings of loneliness and isolation.

It is not uncommon now for pet therapy to be prescribed as a treatment for anxiety reduction in adults and children with autism, as well as those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and sexual assault trauma, among other incidents. Services dogs have been known positively impact war veterans, providing them with a better ability to cope with flashbacks and lowered rates of nightmares, among other positive indicators.

Pets can also be social catalysts for people – whether it be meeting friends at dog parks, forming social support networks surrounding animals or simply forming a kinship with others over a mutual love for animals.

According to HABRI, 98% of pet owners agreed that their pet is an important member of their family so it only makes sense that once we get a dose of pet love in our lives, everything is instantly better.

If you’re unable to own a pet yourself, there are countless ways to incorporate the benefits of time with dogs and cats into your life, including:

  • Volunteering at a local animal shelter
  • Volunteering with pet rescue groups
  • Dog walking or dog sitting in your spare time
  • ​​​​​​​Adopting a friend or family member’s pet every now and then for a weekend!

Learn more about our support services, including our pet therapy program. 

Reference: Anxiety and Depression Association of America, Human Animal Bond Research Institute