Animals have always been an essential part of human development. Be it as a source of food and clothing for hunters or as a means to plow our fields or protect our valuables, animals have always made themselves indispensable to human needs. While different species were needed for their functionality, some evolved to be our favorites with us. In fact, dogs and kittens top the list of most favorite animals. In other words, dogs and cats are ‘arguably’ the most accepted species by modern humans as companions or pets.
Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, was the first to discover the therapeutic abilities of animals in the 1800s. She noted that small animals helped patients, especially those suffering from chronic diseases, to recover better.
Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, is one of the most famous proponents of veterinary medicine and even used his dog’s abilities to treat his patients. Interestingly, one of his dogs, a Chow-Chow named Joffy, accompanied him during his treatment session. Freud believed that Joffee could indicate a patient’s mental state by how close she was sitting to the patient. The closer Joffi stayed, the calmer the patient was. Freud also used Joffee to facilitate communication with his patients. They found that many patients initially felt more comfortable talking through Joffie and such conversations served as an ice-breaking session until they felt comfortable talking with him directly.
A Paw-Isteve Therapy
Animal-assisted therapy (AAT), animal facilitated therapy, or more commonly called animal therapy, is a type of alternative treatment program. People who have suffered physical, emotional or psychological trauma are made in the presence of their handlers to interact with trained animals in order to reduce symptoms of illness and help them recover. It is a secondary form of treatment that often accompanies a mainstream procedure. The most common species used for AAT are dogs, cats, horses, guinea pigs, rabbits, llamas and dolphins. It should come as no surprise that cats and dogs are the two most common ‘certified’ healers. While dogs have established an unmatched dominance in this area, cats seem to be drawing closer in recent years. Familiarity and ease of maintenance also make these two a well-chosen option compared to other therapy animals.
Veterinary medicine is based on the concept of the human-animal bond. This principle is based on an innate desire to interact with people and to relate to animals. Their ability to do so exudes calmness and optimism, along with a myriad of other benefits. These include an increased sense of social support, providing a source of motivation and stimulation, encouraging perceptions concerning one’s health, and a better balanced mental and emotional state.
A patient’s condition and medical need further determine its purpose and course of action. It can be used to provide comfort, reduce pain, improve motor or cognitive skills, and enhance social or behavioral skills.
Animal therapy can also help reduce symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), dementia, Alzheimer’s, autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and schizophrenia. Studies Show that people undergoing rehabilitation for a drug use disorder can also benefit from veterinary therapy.
Dogs are considered to be man’s best friend. There are innumerable ways that our furry friends make our lives better. It has been proven that a dog’s face has an ‘infant schema’, meaning that its high forehead, large eyes, short muzzle and floppy ears may have evolved to appeal to human instinctive reactions. These characteristics are known as ‘social releasers’ and can elicit a human caregiver’s response. The desire to help and provide for someone makes us kind and compassionate.
according to a studyPlaying with or petting a dog lowers blood pressure and heart rate, slows breathing, and relieves muscle tension almost immediately. You will be surprised to learn that looking into a dog’s eye can make you feel better immediately. According to ResearchJust looking into a dog’s eyes causes a tremendous increase in oxytocin levels. Oxytocin is a hormone that has the power to regulate our emotional responses and pro-social behaviors, including trust, empathy, processing of relationship signals, and positive communication. Interacting with dogs can help you maintain an optimistic outlook on life. Better yet, it also reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety disorders.
For the part of cats, they may not seem as expressive and like their personal space as dogs, but that doesn’t mean they have anything less to offer. Therapy cats are trained to maintain a gentle, tolerant demeanor and to remain calm even during stressful times with their partner or medical emergencies.
Studies Show that spending time with cats can lower your blood pressure and stress levels. It produces a positive ripple effect thereby reducing the risk of heart diseases like stroke or heart attack.
For cat lovers, puss is one of the most comforting sounds. While this is certainly a sign of a happy cat, the purring has been proven to have healing abilities. According to ResearchA cat’s purr may have a therapeutic potential on human bones and muscles. Purr produces vibrations at a frequency of 20-140 HZ, and studies have shown that frequencies in the 18–35 Hz range have a positive effect on joint mobility after injuries. Thus, being near a cat while recovering from an accident has twofold benefits. Cats facilitate rapid healing as well as the release of calming chemicals into your body to reduce pain-induced stress and anxiety levels.
Furthermore, according to a study According to the American Institutes of Health, children under the age of one who were exposed to cats were shown to be less likely to develop allergies later in their lives. This indicates a strong immune system.
words of caution
While veterinary medicine is being welcomed at an ever-increasing rate in the medical world, be sure to say yes only when you are completely comfortable with it. Keep in mind that therapy is going to help you.
Some people are allergic to animal fur while for others, animals cause fear and stress. Your doctor will always seek your approval before recommending this type of therapy. Choose what is best for you. Remember, this is for your recovery and you can cancel it whenever you want after consulting your doctor.
Also, at times, patients tend to develop a deeper connection with their therapy animals which can make them possessive and in the long run may be harmful to their health causing other issues.
Veterinary medicine is another reminder to mankind that our existence is intertwined with that of the animal kingdom. We need their companionship as much as we like to believe that our presence is vital to their survival.
With all sincerity I will dedicate myself to the welfare of those committed to my care