Unleashing Happiness: How Animal Therapy Can Improve Your Dog's Well-Being

Unleashing Happiness: How Animal Therapy Can Improve Your Dog’s Well-Being

Many people are familiar with the joy and unconditional love that pets bring to their lives. But did you know that they also provide mental health benefits? Pets have been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, ease loneliness, encourage exercise and even improve cardiovascular health. In addition, playing with a pet releases oxytocin and dopamine, which promote bonding and positive feelings.


Reduces Stress

Petting an animal stimulates the release of serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin. These “happy hormones” promote relaxation and stress reduction.  The pet’s presence also helps people feel needed and loved, a great way to combat depression and loneliness. Therapy animals like dogs, cats and horses are trained to interact with patients safely and respectfully. They can help people feel less lonely, improve their motor skills, decrease feelings of isolation and increase verbal communication. For example, one study found that elderly adults with dementia experienced less agitation when an animal was in their care. This is because they could focus on caring for the animal rather than their distressing symptoms.

Relieves Anxiety

Animal-assisted therapy involves regular sessions with animals that are specially trained to be therapeutic. While pets like dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs and even chickens may be used, some programs also include horses.

Interacting with pets releases the feel-good hormone oxytocin, reducing levels of the stress hormone cortisol. In addition, research has shown that pet therapy reduces agitation in patients with dementia.

Unlike service animals, therapy animals don’t receive person-specific training and can benefit many more people. However, the animal-assisted therapy (AAT) process should be carefully screened to ensure the safety of all involved. This includes identifying patients who have fears of animals and those with allergies. It is also important to prevent infection, such as by using sanitizing hand wipes. Some programs also require a patient’s doctor to approve the visits.

Helps You Lose Weight

Overweight dogs can have various health issues, including diabetes, arthritis, breathing problems and a shorter lifespan. Keeping your pet at a healthy weight requires a commitment to proper nutrition and exercise, along with assistance from your veterinary healthcare team. Spending time with your dog can help you feel more active, provide a sense of purpose, ease feelings of depression and loneliness and decrease the severity of pain in some cases. Simply playing with your dog has been proven to elevate oxytocin and dopamine, fostering positive feelings of bonding and happiness. For those with arthritis or other conditions that limit their mobility, physical therapy in the water helps relieve pain, strengthen muscles and increase flexibility. The water’s buoyancy reduces joint stress and enables a gentle yet effective workout. Signing them up for animal therapy San Diego CA services is also critical. This will help them control their emotions and stay physically active when dealing with their owners.

Increases Self-Esteem

Taking your dog for walks and grooming sessions will help them get healthy daily exercise, a good way to boost self-esteem. It also increases their social interaction and helps them learn to interact with people more plainly.

Stroking animals releases endorphins that have a natural calming effect. They bind to and activate opioid receptors in the brain, reducing anxiety levels. Patients in recovery, rehabilitation or a long-term care facility may find themselves in an isolated environment. Animal-assisted therapy encourages them to participate in a more interactive activity and build rapport with medical team members. This can improve their mood and make them more receptive to treatment. Similarly, disabled children may feel more confident about their abilities when playing with dogs.

Improves Sleep

Spending time with dogs and other pets releases hormones such as oxytocin and dopamine. These hormones encourage positive feelings, decrease loneliness and enhance bonding. They also lower blood pressure levels for people with high blood pressure, reducing heart disease risk. Studies show animal-assisted therapy (AAT) boosts a patient’s mental and physical well-being. Dogs are the most popular therapy animals, but horses, guinea pigs and birds are also used in certain cases. A recent study found that patients with psychiatric disorders experienced a significant decrease in state anxiety scores during two sessions of animal-assisted therapy. Furthermore, interacting with the animals helps to increase activity levels and makes therapy sessions more productive. This benefits the patients as well as the medical teams working with them.

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