Animal-Assisted Therapy is a form of treatment
involving animals as a form of treatment. It is needed in cases where people
are depressed for a long period of time after a traumatic incident post loss of
dear ones or post war trauma for soldiers. The goal is to improve the patient's
emotional, social and cognitive functioning. Animals used in such therapy are
pet animals like dogs, cats, lamb, fishes or other domesticated animals. In pet
therapy, it is observed that the patients form an unconditional bond with their
pet, which makes them happy and releases hormones that improve their immunity.
Pet therapy is also known to help children cope with autism and similar
disorders that tend to isolate the child from others.
Unlike us humans, animals know no boundaries
of friendship. They are capable of
reaching out to all classes, caste and gender of people in this
world. They require attention and are
dependent on their masters for food, shelter and grooming. Animals are single minded who just give love
and expect nothing in return. They
don't notice or care if their master is impaired in some way or handicapped. By
being involved in exercises and daily routine with their pets, patients tend to
take their minds off stressful or traumatic thoughts for some time. This
results in reduced stress, reduced anxiety, hence normal blood pressure and
also boosts immune system.
Not all animals are involved in pet therapy.
Animals such as dogs and cats are trained to interact more protectively with
the patient. Dogs are trained in such a way that they give a gentle poke to the
patient if they are lost in bad memories or are stressed. Patients feel more
relaxed and less distressed when a calm pet is next to them.
In case of horses, it is observed that they
perceive and respond to their masters' reactions during trail rides. They just
don't react; they also reflect the mood of the person handling them. In cases
where the rider is in relaxed and joyous mood, the horse will mimic that and if
the rider's mood is negative, they reflect the same. Generally horses and
ponies are gentle creatures that behave well in human company and even like to
be stroked. Horses used in pet therapy are trained from young, by exposing them
to distracting sights and sounds. This is done in order to help the horses
overcome their natural instinct of fight-or-flight and stay with the patient
even if the patient feels disturbed for some reason.
Studies show that Pet Therapy
works best with the post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) patients.
Majority of pets
involved in treatment are various breeds of dogs, specifically trained to deal
with PTSD patients. The results of a few studies conducted on Animal-assisted
therapy involving PTSD patients say that the stress level of such patients
reduces by 82% when they have a pet dog with them as compared to those patients
who don't have any pet animal at all. By being encouraged by such findings the
Department of Defense USA has decided to invest $300,000 in further studies to
explore the dynamics of animal assised therapy to cure the soldiers who are
undergoing PTSD post wars.
Pet Therapy is scientifically and medically proven
to cure many psychological and mental disorders in the era when people tend to
depend on "pills". Hollywood actress Ashley Judd, was in depression seeing her
sister Wynona Judd in rehabilitation center for addiction. This incident pushed
her to long term depression. Her doctors suggested that she might benefit from
Pet Therapy. As per their recommendation, she adopted a dog and showed
magnificent recovery from her depression. This case has inspired many to opt for
Pet Therapy during depression and PTSD. However, studies are still being
conducted to check the efficacy of this treatment for depression and various
other mental disorders where Pet Therapy can be used to restore balance in the