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Spending time with animals produces marked improvements in humans, affecting the physical, mental, emotional and social aspects of their well-being. Stress leads to an overproduction of stress hormones, and in-turn increased blood pressure, heart rate, and chance of heart attack and stroke. As you will see in the list, below, a visit with a therapy animal does much to reverse the effects of stress. Visiting with an animal can reduce anxiety without the need for medication, or elicit positive reminiscing in clients with progressed dementia. Therapy animal teams frequently witness measurable improvements as well, for example in visiting with chemotherapy patients in order to lower their blood pressure to a level acceptable for treatment. As we show below, there a multiple therapy dog benefits.
Therapy Dog Benefits- Mental Benefits
Decrease in stress and anxiety, including that from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Decrease in depression, loneliness and feelings of isolation
Decrease in aggressive behaviors
Increase in socialization with an outward focus, including opportunities for laughter and a sense of happiness and well-being
Increase in mental stimulation, attention skills, and verbal interactions
Increase in spirit, self-esteem, and feeling of acceptance, enabling a patient to further participate in mental and physical therapy, to be more involved in group activities, and to accept social and emotional support
Therapy Dog Benefits- Physical Benefits
Decrease in blood pressure
Decrease in heart rate
Decrease in the stress hormone cortisol
Increase in hormones associated with health and a feeling of well-being, including beta-endorphin, beta-phenylethylamine, dopamine, oxytocin, prolactin and serotonin
Increase in level of fitness by providing stimulus for exercise, with improvement in activities in which they were limited
Improvement in fine motor skills, standing balance, wheelchair and other physical skills
In addition, the benefits listed above may result in a decrease in a person’s need for medications.