Psychotherapy or therapy is a way to talk or deal with the challenges or emotional difficulties one can be in.
For some, they start to relive a particular event, develop suicidal thoughts, have persistent nightmares. It begins to affect their lives – school, relationships with others, appetite too.
Asides the talking therapy, we are going to be looking at another way therapy can be administered, it is known as Pet Therapy.
Pet Therapy is a form of therapy where animals are used as forms of treatment. These animals are usually well trained and carefully selected to meet the patient’s needs.
The age, size, and behavior of the animals are some of the criteria considered during selection.
Dogs and cats are the most common animals used for pet therapy, and they are mostly found in:
- Nursing Homes
- Rehabilitation Centres
- Dentist Offices
- Other animals used are horses, fishes, and birds.
Types of Therapy Animals
Therapeutic Visitation Animals
These are pets who are taken to certain facilities (like those mentioned above) by their owners periodically. The people in these facilities have to be away from home due to medical reasons or court order, and these pets have been trained to comfort them and lift their spirits. Some of these persons have pets at home, so playing or walking with these pets reminds them of their pets waiting for them at home, this can serve as a motivation to go through treatments.
Facility Therapy Animals
This is pet therapy that could be said to be exclusively for health facilities like a nursing home—people with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other health conditions.
Animal Assisted Therapy Animals
This is the form of pet therapy employed in boosting self-esteem in patience. The bond the animals share with the people gives them a sense of belonging. An example is the use of horses.
Cases Where Horses Are Used in Pet Therapy
The use of horses for pet therapy is common in individuals with a multitude of behaviors. These individuals may have learning disabilities, anger or abusive thoughts, and behaviors.
This form of pet therapy aims to break or stop these thoughts by getting your full attention to caring for the horse.
This has been scientifically proven to:
- Enhance social skills and communication
- Lower blood pressure
- Riding the horse also helps in behavioral
- problems, and anger management.
Service dogs are dogs that help people with disabilities. The disability can either be physical or mental. These dogs are trained for specific disabilities, enabling them to perform tasks related to the disability of those they are paired with.
- Medical Alert Dogs:
Dogs have been used to check complications before they arise.
- The diabetic-alert dog alerted to diabetic highs and lows due to their excellent sense of smell. They can be used to detect blood sugar levels; this does not mean they should replace medical equipment as they do not provide the exact amount of sugar levels in the blood.
- Allergy Detection Dogs: With the increase in the number of items or foods that can trigger people, and the severity of these allergic attacks, the introduction of dogs to allergy detection was very much needed. These dogs are trained to sniff out gluten or peanuts, as these are the most common causes of allergies. While the dogs are trained to detect these allergies, no reports are showing that they can detect the onset of an anaphylaxis attack. Poodles are one of the most common breeds of dogs used for this.
- Asides diabetics and allergies, these dogs can detect heart diseases, asthma, seizures, and others.
Psychiatric service dogs
These types have been known to help people with medical conditions and PTSD. People with PTSD often have flashbacks and panic attacks. These service dogs are trained to be alerted to changes in the body, so they know when a panic attack is coming, then they go further to paw so they can dissociate the person with PTSD from the episode they might be having.
Some breeds of dogs here are Border collie, Boxer, Doberman pinscher, Lhasa apso, Havanese, and some others.
Other impressive sets of service dogs to note are those that have been trained to detect cancer. Some oncologists say the different kinds of cancers have their unique smell. So, when a cancer-detecting dog sniffs the blood, urine, breath, and sweat samples of a cancer patient, they can tell if its a prostate, skin, breast, ovarian, cervical, or other types of cancer.
The breeds of dogs here are mostly chosen for their sense of smell: Australian shepherd, Labrador retrievers, Standard schnauzer, Belgian Malinois, Golden retrievers, German shepherd, and some others.
Some refer to them as Seeing Eye dogs. These dogs help blind people get around.
As many have said before now, these dogs may not read traffic signs and are not GPS; however, they take cues from their handler on directions they want to go.
This is why lots of considerations are made before a guide dog is paired with a handler, one of which is that they must have a close bond with who they are paired with.
Guide dogs take up the responsibility of avoiding obstacles and hazards that the blind person is not seeing, and even though they have to decide whether going to a place or crossing is safe, the person paired to it has to listen and give a command first.
Dogs are generally cute, and most persons can not resist the urge to pet them, but when you see a guide dog in its harness, they understand that they are working and should not be a pet to avoid distracting them.
Some breeds of dogs used as guide dogs are Standard poodles, Golden retrievers, German shepherd dogs, and Labrador retrievers.
Some people tend to mistake emotional support dogs for therapy dogs. While the former is just known for the comfort they give to their handlers, they have not undergone training needed to perform specific tasks for people with disabilities like the latter.