Updated: May 4, 2022
Pet therapy uses animal interactions to improve physical, mental, social and emotional functioning in people of all ages. Animal therapy focuses on using these animal interactions to help people recover from or better cope with health problems. Animal activities have a more general-purpose, providing entertainment, comfort and support with learning. Animals offer a new and exciting dimension to therapy, education and life, and pet therapy can have a range of benefits from increasing involvement within the group to reducing anxiety (Poleshuck, 1997).
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Animal therapy can help to improve the sense of wellbeing and quality of life as it is a fun activity that can be done as part of a social group, stimulating conversation and interaction to promote a home-like unit atmosphere (Ferreira, 2019). Meaningful activities that encourage engagement are important for people, especially those with dementia; animal therapy has been proven to be particularly beneficial. Animal therapy can help to improve short-term memory, trigger long-term memory and enhance communication skills, even in those with dementia (Yakimicki et al., 2019). Regular animal therapy sessions have also been shown to delay the progression of symptoms in people living with dementia, including agitation, aggression and depression (Kil et al., 2019; Yordy et al., 2019).
Children and Young People
The presence of an animal in the classroom can inspire an eagerness to learn about a specific topic and offer a range of extra-curricular benefits. For example, animal workshops help to develop interpersonal skills, encourage adherence to safety protocols and improve social conduct, especially as animals directly respond to their behaviour (Poleshuck, 1997). The animal’s presence also facilitates discussion between children and adults, improving their self-confidence (Fredrickson, 1995).
There are further benefits to animal workshops. Having an animal to interact with can help children who may be struggling with their schoolwork or home-life, including children who are on the autistic spectrum. The animal workshop increases the number of positive social interactions (Grigore and Bazgan, 2017).
Ferreira, H.D., 2019. Animal-assisted therapy for Alzheimer patients using virtual reality.
Fredrickson, M., 1995. The role of pets in therapeutic programmes: animal-assisted activities, in: The Waltham Book of Human-Animal Interaction: Benefits and Responsibilities of Pet Ownership. pp. 60–63.
Grigore, A.A., Bazgan, M., 2017. Effects of Assisted Animal Therapy on the Development of Socio-emotional Abilities of Children with Autism. Bull. Transilv. Univ. Braşov Ser. VII Soc. Sci. Law 10, 231–238.
Kil, T., Kim, H., Kim, M., 2019. The effectiveness of group combined intervention using animal-assisted therapy and integrated elderly play therapy. J. Anim. Sci. Technol. 61, 371–378. https://doi.org/10.5187/jast.2019.61.6.371
Poleshuck, L.R., 1997. Animal assisted therapy for children and adolescents with disabilities. Work 9, 285–293. https://doi.org/10.3233/WOR-1997-9311
Yakimicki, M.L., Edwards, N.E., Richards, E.A., Beck, A.M., 2019. Animal-Assisted Intervention and Dementia: A Systematic Review. Clin. Nurs. Res. https://doi.org/10.1177/1054773818756987
Yordy, B.M., Pope, W.S., Wang, C., 2019. Canine Outreach Promoting Engagement: The Effect of Meaningful Activities on Students’ Attitudes Toward Cognitively Impaired Older Adults. Nurse Educ. https://doi.org/10.1097/NNE.0000000000000549