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Benefits of Animal Assisted Therapy

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Benefits of Animal Assisted Therapy

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. In a study that sought to examine the impact of AAT on children with Cerebral Palsy, Joseph, Thomas, and Thomas, (2016) noted that ‘Results indicated improvement in motor areas such as Gross Motor Functioning, re-establishing muscle symmetry, improving trunk stability, postural control, balance, gait, range of motion, functional skills, ADL, strength, co-ordination, and muscle tone’. 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.

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. Similarly, Chermiack and Chermiack (2014) noted that ‘Several investigations of the effect of pets on physical health suggest animals can lower blood pressure, and dog walkers partake in more physical activity,’ supporting Reynolds’ idea that the engagement of pets can help in lowering one’s blood pressure.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. Joseph, Thomas, and Thomas, (2016) also stated that the study, ‘revealed significant improvement in psychological variables such as cognition, attention, concentration, memory, self-esteem, emotional well-being and social interaction’, indicating the benefits that accrue to patients who utilize the AAT therapeutic tool.

Conclusion

            Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) involves the use of animals in improving patients’ functioning, including their social, mental, physical, and emotional functioning. AAT can be applied in various settings such as hospitals, nursing homes, or homes among others, and the therapy has proved to be effective in improving the health outcomes of patients suffering from a number of health complications, including dementia, stroke, cerebral palsy, and trauma among others. The key benefits that AAT presents to patients include improved gross motor skills, lower blood pressure, improved attention and focus, and enhanced fine motor skills among others. The therapeutic tool also helps in improving the patient’s well-being by eliminating elements of grief and isolation, further helping patients to overcome depression and other emotional problems.

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