Why seniors should take advantage of pet therapy

by Admin | May 24, 2011

Therapy dogs for the elderly have garnered more and more interest in recent years. In this article, we will look at some of the reasons that pet therapy for the elderly works and why so many health care providers and medical industry professionals believe that pet therapy is a great way for helping the elderly.


Therapy Dogs and Cats and the Elderly

Therapy dogs and cats are used with greatly frequency to help the elderly, and one of the simplest reasons for this fact is that there are tremendous benefits to be gained. One of the major problems that the elderly often face is that of isolation, and working with therapy animals can help reduce the problems associated with loneliness substantially. The issue of loneliness is far more than simply an emotional issue due to the very real issue of mind-body connection.


Addressing Loneliness with Therapy Animals

Loneliness leads to depression, which in turn can serve to suppress and impact the immune system. A compromised or suppressed immune system means that the wounds will have trouble healing. Moreover, recovery time from surgery is also be compromised, and then there is the very real issue of disease resistance. In short, therapy animals, such as therapy dogs, can prove to be an invaluable way to help the elderly keep their immune systems strong and healthy, as they provide companionship and purpose.


Therapy Dogs and Their Benefits

Therapy animals of any kind are great, but where therapy dogs are concerned, there are some unique and interesting benefits to be had. Dogs can learn a wide variety of commands that can greatly assist elderly people. Seniors can also find therapy dogs that have specifically been taught to avoid aggressive behaviors like barking, biting or jumping up on people.

When it comes to people with ailments, therapy dogs are trained to perform specific tasks, which can be extremely helpful. Not only can assistance dogs serve to guide seniors who are visually impaired, they also can assist people who are hard of hearing. For example, they will notify their owner if the phone or the doorbell rings. Therapy dogs can also be used as a medical alert system and can call 911 on a special phone in the case of an emergency.

A second major reason that therapy dogs are a good option for the elderly is that dogs are generally interact and will often demand a degree of play. Pet therapy through playing with an animal is a good way for the elderly to stay active and engaged. The list of elderly activities involving pets is very substantial.


Therapy Dogs Can Reduce Stress


Any factor that reduces stress is, of course, a very good thing and studies have shown that animals can be very effective in reducing stress levels. Therapy animals help seniors take their minds off their problems, whether they are health related or otherwise. In part this is why the medical community uses therapy dogs and other therapy animals.


Screening Therapy Dogs for Visiting Seniors


Therapy animals of all kinds are often taken to visit senior homes and assisted living communities. This provides an activity for seniors of all ages. Special care is taken to screen out and find dogs and other animals that are an appropriate fit for the job. In other words, the poorly socialized 100-pound pit bull isn't too likely to be visiting many senior centers anytime soon!

Wisely, those who bring dogs to meet seniors take care to make sure that they are bringing in dogs and other animals that are receptive to meeting new people are at least relatively gentle by nature. The end result is a situation where both human and animal benefits.

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