The animal therapy or animal assisted therapy is part of a therapeutic program supervised by a professional aiming to provide care to a patient through the presence of a pet: dog, cat, NAC and many others. These innovative methods considerably improve the state of health of suffering people: psychological or sensory disorders, physical pain, social difficulties, etc.
Not to be confused with animal assisted activities (AAA) which consist of empowering people, educating children or entertaining them. These are introduced in schools, prisons or possibly in a therapeutic context, but they do not require a particular qualification, unlike zootherapy. In France, EHPADs are already testing and approving pet therapy which brings its share of happiness to their residents.
The fundamentals of pet therapy
Be careful, the cure of an illness is not promised. However, pet therapy guarantees considerable improvements faced with a given problem. It is based on Human-Animal relationship and by strengthening their exchanges, improves the mental, physical and psychological health of the weakened person. Here are some remarkable benefits of pet therapy that really help patients gain confidence, rebuild, move forward or age well as peacefully as possible.
- strive for optimism : helps to see life on the bright side;
correct behavior: certain attitudes aim to change or evolve in a positive way;
digest an emotional shock: helps to overcome difficult moments in life (death, acceptance of an illness, accident, separation, etc.);
to relax : a real stress reliever, it often learns to relax and reduce anxiety;
lower blood pressure : linked to a stressful situation, it helps reduce hypertension;
revalue your self-esteem: with it, we feel useful and we recognize its qualities (and its faults, we accept them);
fill a gap : the absence of a loved one or an emotional need can be effectively compensated with pet therapy;
open up to others : promotes communication with the outside world and fights against isolation or withdrawal;
connect with nature: finds an essential link with its natural environment;
accept and love each other: let go of the gaze of others and know how to appreciate yourself without the approval of those around you.
Animals solicited for zootherapy
Source of well-being and well-being, pet therapy “uses” several pets as part of animal-assisted therapy.
Renowned for easily reconciling its guest to nature, horse empathy is a source of appeasement for those who suffer: elderly people, children or adults of all ages, their health improves and their strong emotions are relieved. This therapy is named equitherapy and the health professional who supervises it must be a qualified equician.
This canine conciliator knows how to work easily with people in handicap especially. It will be found more in AAA (Animal Assisted Activities), but it is however present in animal therapy for those who are looking for physical and mental well-being. It is no accident that the dog is said to be man’s best friend.
The feline has remarkable virtues: the company of a cat brings many health benefits. It improves heart problems, lowers blood pressure, reduces stress, transmits positive waves, urges epileptic seizures, promotes sleep. For group or individual sessions, the presence of a cat immediately calms the patient and gradually stimulates him.
This is about dolphin therapy : Sensory exchanges between the person and the dolphin can solve many major difficulties or health problems (autism, phobias, Down’s syndrome, depression, deafness, anorexia, cancer). Therapeutic sessions take place at sea or in a pond, in the animal’s natural or artificial aquatic environment.
The small rodents such as rabbits, gerbils, hamsters, or ferrets are predisposed to help humans develop some of their cognitive abilities. The elderly who find it difficult to externalize their emotions turn to small animals, which gives surprising results, especially in terms of disability.
The health benefits of pet therapy
The participation of an animal in a group will install great comfort in his social interactions. Verbal exchanges voluntarily increase, barriers fall and the benefits begin from that moment. Being in contact with an animal relieves stress and promotes letting go. Their soothing and comforting effects improve the physical and mental health of the patient.
Several scientific studies have shown thatkeeping a pet is good for you in every point of view. The mood is high, the pressure drops, family ties are tightened, and the ability to concentrate increases. To break loneliness, being in the company of an animal is ideal for feeling less alone, and for interacting with those around you.
The life of schizophrenics is markedly improved and their socialization regained. People in hospital become less nervous and return to the hope of life thanks to regular visits from their animals. Alzheimer’s patients are less agitated in the presence of an animal. Their health deteriorates less quickly because they maintain a constant healthy weight. Finally, sick or hospitalized children are happy in the presence of an animal, forget their pathologies, which are sometimes painful, and preserve a little of their innocence.
Under no circumstances will the animal be forced and compelled to participate in the care of the patient and to interact. It goes without saying that the therapeutic practice takes place in complete safety and in an animal-friendly manner. Moreover, to obtain beneficial effects on human beings, their total collaboration and development are necessary. The zootherapist must be well trained and have in-depth knowledge of the animal in question.