service dog.

Anyone who has had an animal in their life can attest to the fact that pets can make a huge impact on us. Did you know, though, that there is actual scientific evidence that animals are good for us? In particular, pet-assisted therapy can be instrumental for many people. The benefits of therapy animals abound.

The True Service Animals

Service animals are those pets who have undergone special training. They have earned qualifications that certify that they are able to help a person or people in ways beyond that of your untrained pet. They often help an individual overcome a disability.

Trained service animals may wear a special vest or collar, although they are not legally required. They can go anywhere that their owners go, whether it’s getting into an Uber, heading into the grocery store, or attending a concert. 

Common functions of trained service animals might include:

  • Assisting visually-impaired individuals with navigation and other tasks
  • Alerting hearing-impaired individuals to sounds and hazards
  • Assisting during (and alerting for seizures)
  • Detecting allergens
  • Retrieving items 
  • Providing physical support or stability
  • Aiding an individual with psychiatric or neurological impairment by interrupting impulsive or disruptive behavior

While many pets provide comfort or emotional support to their owners, this function is not recognized as a true service animal function.

Pet Assisted Therapy

Animal-assisted therapy allows a trained service animal to aid in the treatment of patients in a hospital or medical environment. We have long known that animals help us to heal. Pet-assisted therapy can have numerous benefits including:

  • Improved mental health: Just petting an animal can release powerful hormones like serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin that can promote a calm and peaceful mental state and decrease anxiety and stress. They can also help patients with dementia function better. 
  • Improved physical health: Interacting with animals has all sorts of benefits, including faster healing, decreased blood pressure, and decreased pain. 
  • Skills improvement: Interacting with animals during physical therapy or exercise has been shown to help patients push a little harder and improve faster. Children who read to pets improve their skills faster, and those with conditions like autism are able to engage more effectively socially when an animal is involved.

The benefits of therapy animals are incredible, and there is likely more that we still have yet to fully understand. The human-animal bond is a powerful thing, even for those without a specific medical diagnosis or need. Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital is proud to help support this bond.