The Benefits Of Therapy Animals On Mental Health And Wellbeing

Its undeniable that we all feel better when we spend a good few hours with our pets. No matter what kind of mood we’re in, give us an afternoon locked away with our furry friends and we’ll come out of it a totally different person.

Now, organisations across the world are recognising the positive effects of pets on mental health, as schools, nursing homes, and hospitals are calling on therapy animals to promote wellbeing and improve mental health.

This week, one US school included their therapy dog in their yearbook. Miss Peanut, the adorable therapy dog at an Illinois school, was so revered by students that they gave her a feature spot alongside the class of 2018 – and rightly so!

Miss Peanut has gone viral on twitter, with one user even starting a #PeanutForPromQueen campaign. We think it’s great that Miss Peanut has been recognised for her contribution to the mental wellbeing of students, and it’s the perfect opportunity to talk about the long list of benefits of therapy animals.

For many years, pets have been a form of therapy for humans, depending on various situational factors. Elderly people, for example, often rely on the help of a pet to deal with loneliness or bereavement. They can similarly be used to support sick or disabled people, and have been proven to play an integral role in their recovery.

The positive effects of pets can be seen both on mental and physical heath. Therapy animals can provide comfort, reduce anxiety, and lift overall spirits. This is largely due to a physical change within the body, as therapy animals help to lower blood pressure, improve cardiovascular health, and release oxytocin – a calming endorphin.

Therapy animals have also been used to aid in physical therapy, improving joint movement and recovery time. For this reason, they are often deployed in disaster areas, or used in the recovery of war veterans.

Whilst interaction with therapy animals for short amounts of time can boost wellbeing temporarily, committing to a full time pet can have further benefits. Julie Smith recently appeared on This Morning, explaining how a coop of chickens helped her overcome depression.

Julie talked about how being forced into the routine of caring for the animals helped her, telling hosts Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby, “I had to get up and go out. Nobody wants to get us at 4am, but I did.” Now, she says that her mental wellbeing has greatly improved, and that she’s a changed woman.

Therapy animals have also been known to improve children’s learning. It has been suggested that they have a calming influence and provide focus, improving self confidence and helping children to learn to read and write.

We all know how much of an effect animals can have on our lives, but sometimes we don’t appreciate just how profound an impact they really can have. And it’s not just dogs either – cats, guinea pigs, llamas, rats, and pigs can all qualify as therapy animals! We’ll leave you with that thought…

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