Pet therapy is an area that has received increased attention in therapeutic recreation. In recent years, the experts have been relying on pet therapy as a valuable aid in reaching out to the elderly, the infirm, and to ill or abused children through-out the country. Pet Therapy is the commonly used term for animal-assisted therapy (AAT), animal-assisted activities (AAA) and pet visitation. It is also recognized at hospitals around the country as a great way to help children cope with the stress and anxiety associated with hospitalization. Pet Therapy is a general term that encompasses many therapeutic activities involving animals as companions or occasional visitors to the sick, elderly, or mentally ill.
Pet therapy is now being used to help with a wide range of medical and emotional ailments. Sometimes just one treatment can and does work in alleviating many symptoms. Pet therapy also promotes socialization, improves self-esteem and security, and provides entertainment and acceptance. The visitations provide a warm and comforting presence, patient listeners, and a relaxing interlude to residents of health care facilities. The pet therapy program was initiated at Wishard Health Services in November 2002 and is now is a recognized method of treatment the world over, more so in developed countries and continues to grow by leaps and bounds. Pet therapy is one of the most rewarding volunteer activities a dog and handler can be involved with and is becoming a popular and important role for many animals, especially dogs. Visits can have a positive effect on a resident or patient’s physical health, as well as on his or her emotional health by reducing loneliness and creating a sense of purpose. For the lonely residents of nursing homes, mental health facilities, rehabilitation centers, and homes for the handicapped, holding a warm puppy or playful kitten provides the unconditional love they need so much.
For people who enjoy animals, pet therapy offers some solid benefits: better health, more relaxed mood, enhanced connection to the world, improved communication, and the needed chance to play and create. Under direction of health services and education professionals, animal-assisted therapy can promote physical movement, emotional well being, cognitive awareness and social improvement for people with disabilities. In a health care facility, people come out of their rooms to socialize with the animals and with each other.
Each dog must undergo extensive training before they can interact with patients. In order to participate in a pet therapy program, volunteers generally need to undergo training and testing. You can help prepare your dog by ensuring good healthy socialization, positive exposure to a variety of people, other animals, environmental factors and situations. If you own a calm, friendly animal that would make a good pet companion and would like to check into volunteering, you can search the Internet for organizations that seek volunteers or contact a university’s school of veterinary medicine for information.
Finally, although pet therapy has been shown to be effective for many people, it is important to remember that not everyone enjoys the presence of animals. Like any other type of therapeutic intervention, pet therapy should take the patient’s likes and dislikes into account. Overall, participating in any type of Pet therapy program can be a very rewarding experience for everyone involved. To find pet therapy near you, look for a program with clear, therapeutic goals for its participants and also have Infection control guidelines that ensure patient safety. Also, be sure to get approval from your Dr. before starting any visits.
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