Pet Therapy

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The likelihood of using pets as a therapy offers relieve to the medical fraternity. This therapy if developed to reliability levels offer such worth and stress free alternative (Kaminski, M., Pellino T., Wish, J, p328). Nevertheless from the very onset, the company of pets offers peace of mind to the owner; Perhaps, a consolation too to the owner in times of stress. This paper looks at the benefits accrued both medically and socially from the interaction with pets with particular interest to the disabled persons.



The Treatments of certain ailments have been very elusive. The advent of the pet therapy has been a major milestone in the treatment of psychological ailments. Besides, the treatment offers the only alternative that has the least side effects if there are any at all. People with disability require more empathy and care (Servodidio C, p 20). Pets are believed to be very emphatic. Given that research shows the psychological orientation of the brain contributes to the healing process of the patients.

It is apparent from research that those children who come from families that have pets are more empathetic than those who are from families without any. This shows that pet have more emphatic feeling and therefore those who tend to associate with them more develop similar feelings.

Nursing founders such as Nightingale (Brodie, S. J; Biley, F. C., Shewring M 448) argue that the integration of pets into the hospital system is very important and has a positive contribution towards the healing process of the patients. However Nightingale feels strongly that the integration of the same has been relatively slow.

Similarly there is sufficient evidence that those who integrate with pets are better placed to recuperate than those who are away from the pets. Besides, it has been generally appreciated that those who have pets within their vicinity have high chances of having better health than those that are far from pets. Pets tend to provide psychological comfort for both the aged and the invalids.

Available literature equally shows that there numerous animal induced benefits are immense (Brodie, S et al). These formative assessments provide sufficient proof that the returns of pets within the setting of a medical facility were immense and therefore there was sufficient reason to have the pets incorporated within the medical system. Within the strength of this assertion, the nursing fraternity should front for the adoption of the pets within the medical facilities.

This is only reminiscent of the past history in which pets have played a key role in the lives of human beings. The relationship between pets and humans dates far back in over 12000 years. However, discoveries have shown that the relationship dates as far back as 30000 years.

In theUK, about 60% of the households have pets. Ideally 78% of the people in theUnited Kingdomhappen to own pets at one point through their lives (Whitaker J, p 8). This relationship has in the past been treated as mutual, however, presents research shown that the relationship is more symbiotic than it is mutual.

Native Americans Indians have been believed to have utilized the pets in nursing and taking care of the young ones (Brodie, S et al). This is one of the most ancient applications of the pet therapy in Medicare. From the researchers children within the native Indian Americans who were exposed to the pets were generally emphatic and were able to recuperate faster than those who were not exposed to pets.

Scientific research equally (Kaminski, M., Pellino T., Wish, J., p 329) shows that the relationship between people and animals is stronger and quite enduring. This is unlike the relationship that exists between other living things. The animals kept within the home setting would be for some other reason other than being pets, however, during times that are stressful for either parties, it has been found out that the parties tend to have empathy for each other (Servodidio C, p 20). Besides, the presence of either party during these stressful times tends to provide sufficient comfort for the parties. Overall, the psychological peace of mind for the parties provides sufficient leverage for the recuperation process.

The animal-human bond seems to be very strong and quite sentimental. This bond has developed over time and become very strong. The green revolution, perhaps, provides sufficient reason for why the bond is growing strong with every day count. Similarly, the inherent relationship between the parties provides the central reason for which the bond has to be maintained between humanity and the environment.

Research amongst patients equally shows that the most frequently missed item from the patients household while at the hospital is the pets. In addition, from another research does show that 99% (Netting, F. E et al p 64) of the households considered their pets as family members and were dully missed whenever they were absent.

Different schools of thought cite different grounding for the relationship. Nevertheless, the most common ones are affection, compassion and friendship. Brodie finds immense potent benefits from the relationship. The relationship is quite important for the social wellbeing of the parties (Brodie, S et al). The relationship between animals and pets is believed to be more mutual and reciprocal than the relationship that exists between human and humans. The relationship between animals and humans is less demanding and less complicated than that that exists between either the animals or humans.

Apparently humans are more predisposed to get attached to fellow humans, particularly children; when animals exhibit similar traits children will tend to take them as preference. Furthermore, pets seem to have a large ability to initiate and respond adequately to attachments. Besides, pets seem to embrace such attachments sooner than most of the humans can.

Subsequent to the aforementioned the introduction of animals in the healing and treatment process of patients seems to provide an alternative side-effect-free medical intervention (Whitaker J, p 8). The pet would simply be introduced in the environment of the patient with a therapeutic intent. This approach is taken as an interdisciplinary approach, where the nurses are allowed to take a central yet mere facilitative role in the overall administration of the therapy.

While this approach to Medicare would be seen today as a new invention, the application dates back to the 9th century. This application was used in Gheel, Belgium, where handicapped people were allowed to have time with pets that were believed to give them both physical and psychological comfort. In the 1960’s the use of animal therapy become more pronounced with appreciable health and physical benefits. Prior to, animals had been used in the 18th century in epileptic homes for the treatment and consolation of the patients.

In the York Retreat, animals were used in the treatment of patient. Apparently, the animals tended to replace the traumatic feelings of the patients with love, understanding, kindness and trust during asylum. Similarly, during World War II, pets were introduced in convalescent hospitals (Netting, F. E, p 63). Today, there are numerous programs for the patients to visit animals’ orphanages in lieu of the fact that they may just get well faster and sooner.

Presents e does indicate that pet therapy would make hospital wards appear less antiseptic and more natural in orientation. Perhaps, the research argues, this type of setting provides a better recuperation environment for the patients and the convalescents within the medical facility (McColgan, G., Schofield, I, 24). In addition, the antiseptic nature of the hospital seems to be more doomed and provides a very sickly and hopeless environment than a recuperating one. Further, this setting provides a more preserved natural setting and normality within the life of the patient hence offering more hope.

Pets would be used in the stimulation of interaction and the provision of immense pleasure for the patient. Subsequently, this gives the invalid or the convalescent peace of mind for the recuperation process. In 1991, (Kaminski, M., Pellino T., Wish, J, 335) when a very ill old man who was awaiting for surgery was visited with a relation accompanied by pet dog, he was apparently reconnected with his pre-hospital life; he become less withdrawn and less angry. The man become more relaxed and was quite happy.

A thorough examination of 40 elderly people who were visited weekly by puppies showed that the patient had improved psychosocial interactions, better interactions, had better social competencies and improved psychological wellbeing. Further, the research reveals that the patients had their depression tremendously improved.

It is believed that pets would form non-threatening reassurance, tactile comfort and non-verbal comfort, which help in breaking the cycle of loneliness social withdrawal and hopelessness witnessed in hospitals. The pets are brought into the life of the patients as an intervention to alter the environment and subsequently reduce the feeling of being isolated and being lonely.

According to Whitaker (Whitaker J, p 8), the application of pet therapy has tremendous health benefits. The benefits according to them include the provision of pleasurable activities and companionship. The pets also assist in the facilitation of laughter and play; facilitate exercises because the presence of the pets make the patient feels sufficiently secure. Ideally, the animals provide a link with reality that makes the patients emotionally stable.

Frank (McColgan, G., Schofield, I, p 24) argues that animals can be confidantes, admirers, servants, toys, teammates, friends, mirrors, trustees and even defenders. Besides, Franks views animals as outlets for the ancient primate grooming urges. This, Frank argues improves the sense of the patient’s well-being. Inherently, animals provide a more natural sense of humor for the patient.

Nettings (Netting, F. E, p 61) argues that the usefulness of pets are insurmountable stating that domesticated animals tend to offer the patients unconditional affection, an ever present listeners and a constant companion, though Francis believes this benefits are more than can be believed in the world where there is increased fragmentation alienation due to the increased trust in the sterile technology. While much of the benefits are apparently disputable, the aspect companionship and affection seem more indisputable both in sickness and in health.

Controlled studies (Brodie, S et al) have shown that the absence of companions tend to affect the activity levels of individuals. Besides, research shows that the behavior of individuals also has been determined by the presence of pets in the lives of individuals.  Subsequently, this stature tends to influence the progress of the illnesses within the individual. The study contacted on 96 patients who were hospitalized with myocardial infarction shows that those patient with exposure to pets had a high likelihood of survival that those who were left to recuperate on their own.

Michael in his research found out that the risk factors for cardiovascular ailments within pet owners and those without pets. The blood pressure, plasma cholesterol and triglyceride values of 5741 (Michael O) pets owners and non pets owners who were being screened at a cardiovascular disease risk clinic were compared. Patients who had pets owners had significantly lower systolic blood pressure and plasma triglycerides than patients who did not have pets.

Research has shown that people who owned pets had low levels of cholesterol than those who did not have the pets at all. This was despite the social behavior of the pet owners; some of whom even smoked and had lower economic status. However, researchers urges the general public to ensure that they don’t have to engage in activities that would lead to the contraction of ailments in the name of having pets that would have help in the healing process (Kaminski, M., Pellino T., Wish, J, p 331). Habits such as smoking should be refuted at costs to reduce the likelihood developing infections that are resultant from this habit.

While it appears apparent that pet owners have equal chances of remaining health despite their economic status and their unhealthy lifestyles. The investigations show that the pet owners had low blood pressure and low plasma level compared to those in lower social economic and unhealthy traits.

In Katcher’s study, the investigation did show that the interaction between humans and animals was quite healthy. Pet owners had significantly reduced blood pressure than those that did not have pets at all (Servodidio C, p 20). In another study Baun et al established that blood pressure, respiration and heart beats were more regulated well particularly for individuals with pets. It was evidenced that petting tended to reduce the systolic and diastolic blood pressures. The response was equated to that of a relaxed reader who used reading as a therapy.

In another research on the skin temperature, blood pressure, muscle tension heart rate and muscle tensions, it was found out that the skin temperature increased and muscle tension reduced amongst individuals who were petting with bonded and non bonded pets. The study shows that petting a dog would have relaxing effect on the individual or on the patients. This would be attained through the reduced blood pressure and increase in the peripheral skin temperature.

Though Gaydos and Farnham found reading as the most relaxing therapy, the intervention that induced greater levels of relaxation. In Oetting’s study (Whitaker J, p 8), the association between petting a companion dog, practicing a relaxation technique and a combination of the two. No empirical distinction was found between the treatments in the changes in peripheral temperature of the skin, blood pressure, and the heart rate

There are other general benefits that are resultant from the interaction with the pets. On acquisition of a pet, a dog and a cat, it emerged that dog owners had reduced cases of minor ailments. Besides, dog owners recorded increases in the number of walks that were taken by the dog owners. Cat owners exhibited changes but the changes disappeared after a period of six month (Maleske M, p 24). It was apparent that the dog owners had a high link, and undertook more recreational walks and had improved health stature than those who did not have pets.

Siegel (Kaminski, M., Pellino T., Wish, J, p 326) found out that pet owners had less doctor contacts than those individuals who did not have pets at all. Dog owners saw the least need for seeing the doctor compared to those who did not have dogs. Apparently, income, pet ownership and health status were the key determinants for the contact with the doctor by any individual. However, pet owners seemed to make less visits to the doctor than those individuals that did no have pets. There is sufficient indication that pet ownership influences psychological and social processes other than jut the physical health. Ideally pets reduce life stresses and should be embraced at all possible costs.

In a longitudinal research (Michael O) to investigate pet ownership, it emerged that those who had pets had lower chances of developing depression. Though this finding was not uniform, it did provide insight into relationship between health living and the ownership of pets. In conflict Akiyama et al found out that people who were widowed had fewer psychophysical and physical symptoms of bad health. It appeared from the research that the relationship between the pet and the owner did not determine the health of the owner of the pet.

It has emerged that the social support an individual had determined their health status (McColgan, G., Schofield, I, p 21). Companionship promoted health through buffering of any imminent stressful events in life. Pets animals are therefore advocated for as companions that would provide strong attachment bonds that can help in the alleviation of stress. Pets therefore provide alternative companions to further this end.

Research shows tat married people are less prone to stress related ailments (Netting, F. E, p 64). This is attributed to the fact that they tend to provide companionship for each other. Consequently, it is believed that the introduction of pets in the lives of single people can assist them reduce their stressful experiences as the pets may provide alternative companions. The pets are seen as sources through which the gap can be filled in the absence of a companion. Research has clearly shown that pets mad a great different in the lives of those who were lonely or perceived to be lonely.

In addition, the research showed that the morale of those who were lonely was largely boosted in the presence of pets (Maleske M, p 24). Besides, the ownership of pets is believed to have contributed to the improvement in the dissatisfaction score of their owners. The study gives insight into the import of pets in the lives of people. Pets are very significant in the lives of individual who seem to be quite disillusioned.

In a longitudinal research that was carried out to ascertain the social benefits of pet ownership, it emerged that the first and the second group owned televisions, the third and the forth did not own any of the aforementioned (Servodidio C, p 20). The fifth had an equal number of television owners and non-owners. Members in the first and second were allowed to have budgerigar while two and four were given pot plants. It did emerge from the research that the existence of a budgerigar gave a positive change in attitude the ownership of a television not withstanding. Birds were focal point for those who owned the televisions and were such a social lubricant.

In another research (Whitaker J, p 8) that was aimed exploring the effect of inanimate and animate extrinsic stimuli on the sociability behavior of patients that are critically ill and those that were predominantly aged. This therapy was particularly applied in long term palliative care. Observations were made on the verbalization looking, the opening of eyes and leaning forward was observed.

This was done during a time when the patients were presented with wine bottles. The research showed that maximum social behavior per resident were noticed when puppy there was the presence of a puppy (Servodidio C, p 20). During the interaction repetitive statements and hostility capsized, the puppy proved that it was indeed a social catalyst which assist bring about more verbalization.

Many studies have shown that animal human interactions have been use don adult population to show that their presence in the lives of the aged made a grant difference in their health. This does not mean the use of the pets is restricted to the aged, but their utility has also been established in diverse ages.

In children Guttmann et al. and Mugford (1980) acknowledged that the importance of pets is not restricted to the socialization and the lives of children. However they did establish that caring for children led to the development of feeling and attitudes for others. It increased the tolerance of the child and led to overall self control and self acceptance. They argue that interaction with pets introduced the children to the reality of living and dying.

According to Guttmann (Netting, F. E, p 62), animals acted as socializers and a source of security. Besides, Guttmann asserts that the companionship of the pets was very incidental in the development of emotions and their subsequent enhancement. This companionship, Guttmann argues, helped in the reduction of heart complications and stress; which he argues reduced the life expectancy by at least 10 years.

Disabled people have also been found to reap a lot of benefits from their interaction with animals. Hart argues that the interaction of people with disabilities increased considerably when they were kept in constant interaction with animals of their particular interest. Hart noticed that visually challenged persons with a guide dog experienced more conversation and interactions compared to those using alternative mobility aids. Vividly for Hart, animals tended to dissolve barriers that inhibited interactions.

The aforementioned seemed to be a continuation of Lockwood’s(Whitaker J, p 8)  work in which he explored the possibility of animal presence altering the perception of other people. He asked students to depict the mood inherent in certain drawings of individuals and groups in a number of interactions and the pictures that had animals. It was emerged that pictures that contained animals were perceived positively and individuals in the interaction were seen as friendlier, less threatening and quite relaxed (Brodie, S et al). From this it could be concluded that animals promoted positive perceptions and images which in turn facilitate interactions that are healthy.

Animals also improve the psychological wellbeing of persons who interact with them. Katcher (Michael O) established that subjects who had pet dogs had seemed to have a relatively low blood pressure reading than individuals who read aloud to other people or who were conversing with a researcher. In another study on the relaxation effect of pets, Katcher explored the effect of animals that could not allow to be touched on the blood pressure. He established that stroking animals reduced the blood pressure of the individual who was stroking the animal.

In another research involving 15 hypertensive persons and twenty normotensives who were asked to watch a blank wall for an estimated 20 minute and their baseline pressures monitored (Servodidio C, p 20). Their attentiveness was then turned to an aquarium full of brightly colored fish. There as a Significant decrease in the blood pressure of both groups. Individuals, who read aloud after watching a tank elicited increases in their blood pressure, however did not return to the previous levels (Whitaker J, p 8). The study was indicative of the fact that fish had protective buffering effect on the future stressors.

Cole (Maleske M, p 24) explored the worth of aquariums in improving relaxation, by measuring the levels of stress of patients who were awaiting heart transplants. A tank with 4 brightly colored fish was put in the patient’s room. The level of the stress of the Patient, heart rate and blood pressure were measured. The results indicated that fish were positive visual stimulus that instilled a sense of control, providing distraction from the vehicle and the hospital for relaxations.

While majorities of available literature show positive results, some studies have found the relationship to be non existent. There feel there is no substantive relationship between pet ownership and health improvement. Lago found no touchable relationship between the morale and the ownership of pets. He argues that morale is more extrinsically and intrinsically motivated.

Cameron (Michael O) concluded that there was no relationship between animal ownership and enhanced psychological health. In a comparison by Friedmann of the psychological stature amongst 309 pet-owners and non pet-owner students, they were no specific correlation between pet ownership and health. However, other studies have not produced much significant relationship.

Besides the social, physical and psychological benefits amongst the population, animals are reported as having positive effects on a smaller, more discriminative group particularly those who have sexual troubles and those considered infertile (Kaminski, M., Pellino T., Wish, J, p 329). It also appeared to be more applicable to those who were mentally handicapped. Animals were also seen as having a significant impact on children who were very violent.


It is clear that there are a numbers if challenges that arise from methodological difficulty in the analysis of the pet assisted therapy. However, psychiatrists and physicians are in dire agreement that the interaction with animals have insurmountable health benefits and should be encouraged.

In addition, animals are seen as contributors to the improvement of the social interactions that translate to harmony and social happiness for a larger segment of the population; with particular interest to persons with disabilities (Netting, F. E, p 61). Pets decrease loneliness increase the social interaction of individuals and improve their overall morale in undertaking chores (McColgan, G., Schofield, I, p 22). Given the low costs of integrating the pets into the medical and the lives of individuals it should be encouraged highly that individual adopt pet facilitated therapy.