11 Ways Cats, Dogs, and Our Other Animal-Assisted Therapy Friends Reduce Pain And Improve Our Quality Of Life
Did you know that more and more research is coming out that proves the immense benefits of Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT)?
AAT has been proven time and time again to vastly improve the lives and experience of patients in a variety of settings, including for seniors, children, those recovering from surgery, and the families affected by a hospitalized loved one.
We made this fun infographic to snow how important our dogs, cats, and birds are for helping relieve pain and make our lives better! With enough exposure, AAT will become even more popular, and help many more people!
Here’s how our cats, dogs, and other AAT friends help reduce pain and improve our quality of life.
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1. Calm You Down and Reduce Stress & Anxiety
Petting and being around dogs, cats and other animals has been shown to reduce cortisol, a hormone released when under stress.
Cats and dogs can help calm down a wide range of people, from autistic children to patients recovering from heart failure and many people in between!
When you’re sick or recovering, any chance to take a breather and de-stress is a huge positive!
2. Keep Your Heart Healthy (And Help You Live Longer!)
Being around animals, whether your own pet or a therapy animal, can help to lower blood pressure, reduce heart rate, reduce your rate of stroke, and reduce your rate of having a heart attack.
All of this leads to a significantly healthier heart, which means a significantly healthier you. The heart being one of the main drivers of a well-functioning body, this means that being around, owning, or interacting with your own or therapy animals can literally make you live longer!
How’s that for preventative medicine?
3. Give You a Friend to Increase Companionship and Reduce Loneliness
Particularly important for the elderly who may not have other opportunities for social interaction, animal assisted therapy has been proven to increase the feelings of companionship by lowering the feelings of loneliness in seniors
This includes interaction with everything from cats to dogs to birds!
Decreasing the helpless feeling of loneliness significantly increases the quality of life for our seniors.
4. Fight Depression and Improve Your Mood
So we know that interaction with our significant other can boost our mood. But what if he or she isn’t around? Or what if you don’t have one at all?
Well, one Swiss study showed that cats were actually just as effective as significant others at cheering us up!
Dogs, cats, and birds can reduce feelings of depression and boost the moods of pretty much everyone. Studies have been done taking into account elderly patients, mentally and physically unwell children and adults, and AAT plays an important role across the board!
5. Help Autistic Children Communicate and Relax
Animal assisted therapy can really help children with autism when it comes to improving social interactions and increasing communication.
Studies have also shown that the mere presence of a dog significantly reduces the levels of cortisol in autistic children upon waking, which means they get to start the day off less stressed.
Dogs, cats, and other animals seem to be helpful in opening up the world to autistic children and improving their quality of life in many ways.
6. Reduce Stress and Pain in Children After Surgery
Animal-assisted therapy helps children become more aware, vigilant, and active when coming out of anaesthesia following a surgery.
The presence of a therapy animal also reduces the perception of pain felt by these children.
When it comes to improving the life of children going through something very traumatic like a surgery, it’s clear animals play a huge role.
7. Help Heart Failure Patients Recover
Animal-assisted therapy improves cardiopulmonary pressures, neurohormone levels, and anxiety in patients hospitalized with heart failure.
In other words, the presence of these animals lowers the stress of people who have recently gone through a hugely traumatic event (heart failure), and helps in recovery while in hospital.
8. Help Hospitalized Patients Feel Better
Hospitalized patients noticed a significant decrease in pain, respiratory rate, and negative mood when they were in contact with a therapy animal.
The animals even managed to increase the perceived energy levels of the patients while decreasing anxiety and tension.
Basically, these animals helped to increase the overall mood of the patients!
9. Improve Well-Being of Patients AND Their Families
While obviously it is usually much worse to be the patient, it is incredibly difficult on families who have to deal with the stress and strain of an illness or injury to a family member who is loved.
By introducing therapy dog visits, chronic pain patients experienced less pain, but their family members and friends who visited felt significantly less emotional distress, while increasing their general feeling of well-being.
10. Help You Get Through Physical Therapy and Recover From Surgery
When a therapy dog was added to a standard physical therapy program for patients recovering from a total joint replacement surgery, the patients had an easier time getting through the therapy program because they felt less pain, communicated better with the nurses, and generally felt better about their experience.
They even rated their hospital visit higher! Clearly animal assisted therapy helps you get through an otherwise unpleasant session of physical therapy.
11. Reduce Your Pain, Improve Your Mood, And Feel Better While Waiting
Spending time with a therapy animal instead of sitting in a waiting room put fibromyalgia patients in a better mood, reduced the pain they felt, and generally decreased their level of distress.
Our furry friends help take our minds off of our pain and give us something positive to focus on, which means we’re not paying quite so much attention to what’s bothering us. And as anyone who’s had a disease or injury knows, any moment of reprieve you can get is invaluable!