Pets as therapy
Exploring the Benefits of Animal Therapy
In recent years, the therapeutic use of animals has increasingly gained attention, especially since more benefits of companionship animals are being discovered, and for a wider range of reasons than ever imagined. Take for example the therapy dog, whose mere presence uplifts people's spirits in retirement and nursing homes and even in schools.
Unlike people with their complex and unpredictable nature, most domesticated animals provide a more secure and constant source of comfort. They bring out the nurturing instinct in us, while representing safety and accepting us unconditionally, without prejudice. Those are some of the explanations as to why visiting dogs have such a positive effect on AIDS victims, cancer sufferers, seniors, and mentally challenged people.
Dogs top the list when it comes to picking an animal to assist in therapy. Obviously, not every dog is suited, and even the mild tempered ones will need special training to get used to dealing with strangers, loud noises and unfamiliar locations. Therapy animals should not be confused with animals used to provide a service, such as those assisting blind people. "Service Animals" are trained to perform specific acts for individuals with a disability, and have a legal right to accompany their partner in any public location, bus, train or other means of transportation.
Health care practitioners consider "animal assisted therapy" as a unique type of physical or occupational therapy. The program is designed to utilize animals in order to help meet therapeutic goals and improve the physical, social, emotional, and/or cognitive performances of patients. At the same time it can also provide motivational and educational improvements for the participants. Take for example an injured or sick child with muscle weakness in its arms. Regular physiotherapy may help strengthen the arm, but add some motivational and fun dog petting and the child's arm, while lifting and exercising, will definitely recover a lot faster. Furthermore, the bond that children form with animals can be beneficial in other ways. Dog and horse interactions are often incorporated in therapy sessions of autistic children, because there are found to be calming and motivating. In those cases, the animals are incorporated into sensory integration activities which feature vestibular, tactile and proprioceptive stimulation.
Another great advantage of animal therapy is that caring for animals can help special needs children, as well as mentally challenged adults, develop more independence. By feeding, grooming and otherwise caring for a pet, these individuals can greatly improve their fine motor and cognitive skills. They will learn how to play, take care of their pet, as well as themselves, and experience a sense of responsibility and self sufficiency.
Employing animals as a therapeutic tool is not just limited to dogs, but includes cats, rabbits, birds, horses and other creatures, even baby kangaroo! Animals are not only medicinal to sick people, but can also provide a purpose for living to the lonely; the most devastating illness found in elderly is not heart disease, diabetes or cancer, but loneliness. Pets can also offer emotional comfort to those who just lost a loved one, or parents suffering from "empty nest syndrome."
It is impossible to mention all the diverse ways animals can enrich a person's life, and outside of therapy implementation, they make wonderful companions and even bring animal lovers together in clubs. Some couples even meet while walking their four-legged friends at the park. But that is not all. Often forgotten, yet equally important, are the enduring animal trainers and all those devoted volunteers, who bring their companions to hospitals, clinics and schools. They also benefit greatly, as through their animals, they too can reach a level of pride and accomplishment, knowing they are able to assist others in their, often long, road to recovery.
A common problem with many dogs is coughing and/or wheezing. Dogs' coughs are frequently described as sounding like a goose honking. While this type of cough is often associated with kennel cough, it can in some cases, be related to something more serious, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
An emergency situation exists if the dog is non-active, has little or no appetite, or if the gums and tongue are not pink. A veterinarian can provide an appropriate diagnosis and a plan of treatment. This will likely include supplements and/or medications. PetMeds offers great savings on pet healthcare products which makes keeping a pet's health optimal more affordable.