Here at Tevra Brands®, we like to celebrate all the holidays that affect our pets or working animal partners. May happens to be a great time to do that because it is National Pet Month! We all love our pets, of course, and it’s safe to say that they love us in return. We all probably could tell endless stories about how our pets helped us through a tough time, kept us active, or just made us smile.
Happily, the therapeutic value of pets has been proven in several scientific studies, which makes pet ownership more worthwhile than ever. Caring for a pet can decrease blood pressure, heart rate, and risk of heart disease by as much as 50%. This is partly because certain pets, like active dogs, require their people to give them more physical exercise, but it’s also because pets tend to lower stress, regardless of size or species. Below, we’ll highlight just a few examples of ways animals can help in therapeutic settings.
In a 2016 study published in the Journal Gerontology, elderly patients were given crickets to care for. Even though crickets aren’t exactly typical pets, the people who got to care for them reported feeling less depressed after 8 weeks than the control group, who did not have access to animals. Fish have also been shown to help promote relaxation and focus.
Since the late 19th century, humans have used horses in therapy programs around the world. The act of grooming horses or leading them around an arena has been shown to help relieve symptoms of PTSD in children and adolescents. In addition, they also can help people with a variety of physical disabilities. Equine therapy programs use horses to teach patients exercises that often help with balance, dexterity, and proprioception. One of our favorite local organizations is HETRA, (Heartland Equine Therapeutic Riding Academy) www.hetra.org
The most widely utilized animal in any therapy program today is, of course, the dog! Dogs have grown in popularity because they are able to help people with an increasing number of medical conditions or learning disabilities. They can be a source of comfort for someone with a mental illness. They also help motivate patients with traumatic brain injuries, people undergoing heart transplants, and people with terminal illnesses. There are still ground-breaking studies going on that will give dogs even more power to effect positive change for humans everywhere.
So be sure to celebrate the power of pets this month. Whether you have a dog, cat, horse, or fish, your pets definitely deserve a month that’s all about them!
Please note: The research surrounding pet therapy is quite extensive. For more information on Animal Assisted Therapy programs, please visit www.petpartners.org