Types of Pet Therapy
Animals can play an important part in a patient's healing process. In a variety of healthcare facilities, visits from therapy dogs have demonstrated an increase in the calmness, happiness and overall emotional well-being of people who have come in contact with them. Studies have shown a decrease in both the stress levels and blood pressure of patients during visits by therapy dogs.
Franciscan Health uses two types of pet therapy:
- Animal-assisted activities (AAA) - These "meet and greet" activities involve patients getting introduced to the pets in a more causal setting. AAA programs are typically used in a group setting.
- Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) - Integrated into a patient's overall treatment program, animal-assisted therapy is more structured than the AAA program. In AAT, a patient works directly with a health professional and the pet to achieve a specific treatment goal.
Pet therapy can positively impact a patient's physical and mental health as well as promote learning and motivation. Pet therapy goal include:
- Physical - improve fine motor skills, wheelchair skills or standing balance
- Mental Health - increase attention skills, reduce anxiety, reduce loneliness
- Educational - improve knowledge of concepts such as size, color, etc.
- Motivational - improve willingness to be involved in activities and to interact with others
Benefits of pet therapy
Studies have shown that interaction with a gentle, friendly pet has significant benefits.
Physical Health Benefits
- Lowers blood pressure
- Improves cardiovascular health
- Releases endorphins (oxytocin) that have a calming effect
- Diminishes overall physical pain
- The act of petting produces an automatic relaxation response, reducing the amount of medication some patients need
Mental Health Benefits
- Lifts spirits and lessens depression
- Decreases feelings of isolation and alienation
- Encourages communication
- Provides comfort
- Increases socialization
- Reduces boredom
- Lowers anxiety
- Creates motivation for the client to recover faster
- Reduces loneliness
More about therapy dogs at Franciscan Health
Therapy dogs typically do "meet and greets" with interested patients, visitors and staff members in the hallways, lobbies and patient rooms of Franciscan Health. Visitation in isolation rooms, ICU units and some selected units is prohibited.
- The dogs remain on the leash and in the control of their trained handler at all times.
- Hand sanitizer is carried by the handlers and offered to all patents and visitors who come in contact with the dogs.
- As part of the handler-dog team's continued participation with their professional Therapy Dog Registry (such as Pet Partners® or Therapy Dogs International®) the dogs' grooming and health maintenance follow their registry's standards.
- All handlers work strictly as volunteers. Training, medical care and the basic needs of the dog is solely their responsibility.