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Pet Therapy: Discovering the Human-Animal Connection

When some people think about adding a pet to their family, they are more worried about the added responsibility and time requirement versus the overall benefit of having a pet. Trips to the veterinarian for vaccinations, spending extra money on food and toys, the headache of potty training, long walks around the park and chewed up shoes are all images that may come to mind when we see the “Adopt Me” sign in front of the dozen puppies and kittens playing outside PetSmart.

Yes, having a pet of any kind is a long-term financial and time commitment, but for most of us, what we get out of the relationship far exceeds what we put into it. More often than not, the promise of unconditional love and companionship are enough to get a paw in the door, but recently-documented health benefits are yet another reason to consider expanding your family with a pet. In fact, studies of the human-animal connection have shown that pet ownership can help “lower blood pressure, less[en] risk of heart disease and reduce anxiety.”

It’s easy to connect the dots between constant companionship and reduced anxiety, but what about those miracle stories of healing? You know, the ones where a cockatoo helped a child overcome the challenges of severe illness. The benefit of the human-animal connection is well-documented in The Pet Collective videos section – Healing Power of Pets. You’re sure to become a believer after watching a US Marine suffering from PTSD, a man with brain cancer, and a young boy with a seizure-detecting dog share their heartwarming stories of pet companionship and healing.

Still feeling a little skeptical? Check out The Healing Power of the Human-Animal Connection by Margo A Halm, RN, PhD, APRN-BC, CCRN. According to this study published in the American Journal of Critical Care, animal-assisted therapy (AAT) helped patients with perception of happiness, normalizing the hospital healing environment, and increased relaxation and calmness. Not to mention the finding that in cardiac patients, pet ownership was significantly correlated with 1-year survival. It’s not so easy to argue with actual results!

If you’re looking for a way to implement the power of pet companionship into your own healthy lifestyle, check out The Healing Power of Pets: Harnessing the Amazing Ability of Pets to Make and Keep People Happy and Healthy. The author and resident veterinarian on Good Morning America, Dr. Marty Becker can show you how pets can help “prevent, detect, treat, and in some cases cure a variety of maladies from arthritis to asthma, and from Alzheimer’s to depression.” Then, head to your local Humane Society to give a pet in need a new family.

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