Pet Therapy: Animals as Healers
We love our pets! They make us smile, comfort us during tough days, and urge us to be present and find joy in the simplest things. Just interacting with a friendly pet can be a warm source of comfort and joy, and can have many health benefits as well. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), studies have shown that the bond between people and pets can greatly improve the quality of life of the individual, increase physical fitness, lower stress, and bring happiness.
Health benefits of having a pet:
- Decreased blood pressure and cholesterol levels
- Decreased feelings of loneliness or depression
- Increased opportunities for exercise
- Increased opportunities for socialization
The PIH Health Pet Therapy Program aims to bring joy and is a service available for PIH Health patients through its Volunteer Services department. It builds upon the pre-existing human-animal bond, and provides hospital patients and visitors an opportunity to interact with pet therapy dogs. These specially trained dogs make regular visits to various hospital departments and even make special visits on request.
Through pet therapy, dogs take on a healing role. Spending a fun time with a pet therapy dog can release endorphins, hormones that produce a calming effect. This can help alleviate pain, reduce stress, and improve a person’s overall psychological state, helping patients to recover from or better cope with a variety of health conditions.
Many patients, both adults and children, can benefit from pet therapy, including those receiving cancer treatment, long-term hospital stays, and those with cardiovascular diseases, dementia, and anxiety. Family members and friends who sit in on animal visits can reap the benefits as well.
PIH Health understands that hospital visits and stays can be tough and stressful for both patients and their family. Our Pet Therapy Program volunteers hope that their furry friends will be a welcome distraction and help to bring about healing and comfort to all they meet.