Pet Therapy

What is it?

Pet therapy is a guided interaction between a person and a trained animal. The purpose of pet therapy is to help a person cope with a health problem or mental disorder. Pet therapy can help a person to cope with stress, depression or anxiety. Dogs and cats are most common, but even rabbits and horses have been used to help people.

How is it beneficial?

Pet therapy builds on our bond with animals. Interacting with friendly animals can help many physical and mental issues. For example,

It can reduce high blood pressure, lessen pain, and reduce stress. Spending time with animals can make you happier, have a better outlook on life. Having an animal by your side gives you a companion. This can keep you entertained and reduces loneliness. As well as increase your self-esteem and confidence.

How can it be made available?

You can talk to your doctor or therapist. They can provide contacts, and get you in touch with a handler and find a suitable pet. Once a handler and their pet are approved, animals are assigned to a person’s specific needs. You would then work with an animal and their handler. Often the type, breed, age and the pets overall behaviour will determine where the pet will be most helpful to the person.

Here in Edmonton, there is an organization called the Pet Therapy Society of Northern Alberta. Their volunteers along with their pet companions provide animal-assisted therapy and animal-assisted programs to change and make a difference in people’s lives. They are even working with the Edmonton International Airport to help passengers have a calm experience before they go off on their travels.

Pets really do make us happy. Even when you are driving and you see a person walking their dog or you are on the internet and watching a video with a little kitten. These bring a smile to your face. We all can have bad days, but when you get home and you are greeted with wagging tails or your cat purring. Your bad day just got better.  Pet therapy can really have a positive effect on a person, and help them to cope with the challenges they face.

Written by Madison Vandenberg ACA