Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) is a therapeutic tool that is used to improve a patient’s social, mental, physical, and emotional functioning using animals such as dogs. However, the use of the therapy depends on the needs of a patient, since there are a wide variety of animals used for the therapy, including horses, cats, dolphins, rabbits, and cats (Cherniack and Cherniack, 2014). Animal Assisted Therapy can be implemented in a variety of settings, including hospitals and nursing homes among others. Animals have been used for ages to promote the human wellbeing, but the approach to health still lies in the edges of complimentary therapy. The purpose of this paper is to explore the instances when AAT is used to promote patient health outcomes, the key benefits of AAT, and the importance of the therapeutic tool to a patient’s health.
The Application of the AAT Therapeutic Tool
Animal Assisted Therapy is applied in a variety of settings to improve patients’ health outcomes, including helping elderly patients experiencing the loss of fine motor skills due to dementia among other health conditions, children with cerebral palsy, children with learning disabilities, and individuals suffering from trauma among other health complications (Joseph, Thomas & Thomas, 2016). Examples of instances when AAT is used include during the treatment of children with cerebral palsy, where therapeutic riding of animals helps in increasing the child’s balance, flexibility, and physical strength. On the other hand, AAT can be used to assist children with learning disabilities, who have been found to get motivated or relaxed by the presence of pets such as dogs among others. Further, elderly patients who have lost their fine motor skills are helped to regain their motor skills by being assisted in holding a brush while grooming a dog. Moreover, individuals who have suffered from traumatic experiences are assisted to stay in the present by engaging a pet such as a dog or horse, where the individual grooms the pet while speaking to a therapist (Matuszek, 2010).
AAT and Improved Health Outcomes
According to Reynolds (2012), patients who interact with pets demonstrate lower blood pressure that those who do not interact with pets. Hence, based on Reynolds’s findings, the impact of animals on a patient’s health is vividly evident in the contemporary society. For instance, in an average American neighborhood, people are increasingly adopting dogs as pets in their households (Reynolds, 2012). Apparently, the trend presents the growth of the animal-human bond created, which is significantly helpful in regulating people’s emotional pressures (Cipriani et al., 2013). Moreover, a research study on dementia among the elderly indicated that the patients’ conditions improved with the interaction with pets, and such changes as smiling and speaking in social gatherings were noted. Chermiack and Chermiack (2014) indicated that the changes in the elderly people with dementia were achieved through a dog aided program, where dogs were used to elicit for socialization among the elderly patients.
The Importance of AAT to a Patient’s Health
AAT presents several benefits to patients, including lower blood pressure, depression, and minimized risk of suffering a stroke or heart attack, and lower anxiety, isolation, and grief levels. Further, patients engaged in AAT experienced improved balance and enhanced fine motor skills. Patients also benefit from improved attention and focus as well as improved self-esteem and the ability to perform personal chores (Matuszek, 2010).