Pet Therapy

11 November 2016

Pet therapy can be dated as far back as prehistory time when humans noticed that animals were not only used for food, but they were also friends and companions. Animal-facilitated therapy is one of the newer forms of medicine used throughout the nation. The origin of animal-facilitated therapy can be traced as far back as 18th century. The York Retreat, founded in 1792 by the Quaker merchant William Tuke, was cited to be the first use of animal-facilitated therapy. Instead of harsh forms of treatment, the York Retreat emphasized positive means to control behavior.

Animals could be found all over the retreat, and the patients were encouraged to learn to care after them. The York Retreat is used as a model today in the form of animal-facilitated therapy (Cusack 2). The earliest form of animal-facilitated therapy in the United States was when Secretary of the Interior Franklin K. Lane suggested using dogs with psychiatric patients at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington D. C (Hooker 18). Pawling Army Air Force Convalescent Hospital at Pawling, New York introduced pet therapy in 1942. The patients were encouraged to work with many farm animals as well as engage in academic studies.

Pet Therapy Essay Example

Amphibians were also used from the nearby forest as pets for the patients. The patients would hold frog jumping contests and turtle races which inspired a competitive spirit and provided an educational background (Cusack 3). Pet therapy was finally considered a legitimate therapeutic use in 1961 when Dr. Boris Levinson documented his observations (Hooker 18). There are a few different classified types of pet therapy. Animal-assisted activities or animal-facilitated therapy, animal-assisted therapy, and pet-facilitated therapy are the main types of therapy used.

A newer form of therapy called canine candy striping started at UCLA in 1994, has also become a popular method. Researchers are beginning to distinguish between animal-assisted activities, which are practiced in over 600 hospitals nationwide and animal-assisted therapy which is a newer discipline where dogs are used by doctors to reach a specific goal (Roosevelt 2). Studies show that animals, pets in general, make humans better people. Having a pet makes you live longer, be happier, live healthier, and more sociable (Cusack 4). Doctors, therapists, and researchers have argued the fact whether pet herapy is a healthy and effective way to treat patients. Should doctors and therapists start prescribing pets instead of medicine to their patients? The first type of animal therapy is animal-assisted activities (AAA). This therapy is performed by trained professionals with the accompaniment of animals that meet specific criteria. AAA are used for multiple patients and are more of a “sit down” and “play” time. A therapist is not sitting with the patient taking notes such as, ‘what are the patient’s actions showing’ (About 2)? Many different types of animals may be used for pet therapy.

The most common ones however are dogs and cats. Hospitals and nursing homes are starting to permit the use of more animals like rabbits, small rodents such as mice and gerbils, and birds. Dogs and cats do provide the best potential for therapeutic use, but they are more expensive to groom and care for (Cusack 85-91). The most important quality of the animals used for therapy is that they should have a calm personality and they must be people oriented. Cats and small dogs are very good to use because they can fit on about anyone’s lap.

A large dog would be perfect for a patient in a wheelchair so the patient could stroke its hair. Pawprints and Purrs Inc. states, “They provide an invaluable service to those who are lonely, abandoned, or ill; indeed, anyone who needs the miraculous healing that can arise from a hug and a gentle touch (2). ” Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) is another method used on patients. This method does have specific goals for the patient to meet. Catanzaro lists the following four types of AAT interaction between humans and animals: 1.

The “individual companion,” or the owned pet, is one who is specifically trained and placed with an individual on a full-time basis. The programs for the blind and deaf often are the first to come to mind, but animals also are placed with disabled, elderly, or chronically ill individuals. 2. “Part-time companions” include animals that are used on a “loan” basis. They may be left with a person for periods of time but are generally the responsibility of someone else. This includes pets “visiting” the elderly at home or in nursing care facilities.

Some of these animals are entertainers, whereas others are friends and lovers. Most often, the pet stewards are volunteers and they and their animal have been psychologically screened, as in the Pet Partner Program of the Delta Society. 3. The “mascot” or group pet essentially resides in the therapeutic setting itself, such as a psychiatric or nursing home, a children’s ward, or a half-way house. These animals provide companionship in the broadest sense for all residents and patients. As such, they are available to everyone, including the staff. 4.

Animals can be “part of the living environment,” such as seen on a working farm or residential treatment center. Here, people may interact with animals who are considered part of the community of living things—plants, livestock, horses, rabbits, poultry, dogs, cats, as well as birds and animals in the wild (40). AAT can be used in a group or with an individual, but must be performed by a health/human service professional. After each visit, the patient’s progress is measured. An example of AAT would be a physical therapist using the presence of a dog to increase a stroke patient’s ambulation skills.

AAT can improve the physical, mental, educational, and motivational health of a patient (About). Pet facilitated therapy (PFT) is yet another form of therapeutic aid. Prisons, hospitals, nursing homes, and other institutions use PFT. Beck states the animal’s main objective is to “act as a bridge by which therapists can reach patients who are withdrawn, uncooperative, and uncommunicative. ” Upon receiving a pet, patients show a sudden emotional reaction, showing joyfulness. After a few sessions with the pet, many of the patients will start responding to human therapists.

Eventually the patient will start socializing with other people when before they had no social life (Beck161-162). Animals used as therapists in prisons, is a very effective method. The pet program usually stabilizes problem prisoners (Beck 162). In an interview with Robert Kent, superintendent of the Sanger B. Powers Correctional Center in Oneida, Wisconsin, he said, “Since our dog training program started in 1997, we’ve had 68 inmates released who were involved in the program and now one has re-offended and returned to prison. This achievement was lowered costs of prisons considering that 66 percent of inmates nationwide are recidivists (Strimple 70). The idea of using pets in prisons first came from Oakwood Forensic Center in Lima, Ohio. A prison inmate found a wounded bird on the grounds and took it in the prison to care for it. The prisoners started catching bugs for the bird to eat and they started getting along with each other. When the staff noticed that animals could be an effective way of therapy, they preformed a year long study between two wards. In one ward there were no animals, and the other ward had pets.

The ward with no pets had eight suicide attempts during the year while the ward with pets required half of the amount of medication, had reduced violence, and there were no attempted suicides compared to the other ward (Strimple 72). Canine candy-striping is a new form of therapy being used in a hospital at UCLA. The program began in 1994 as just another recreational activity for patients. A former nurse, Kathie Cole, convinced the hospital that animals could lift the spirits of heart-transplant patients during the months of waiting for an organ. Roosevelt writes a story about a 65-year-old patient, hospitalized for quadruple-bypass surgery: had not moved or opened her eyes in days. Her relatives, grim-faced, stood around the bed. “They thought they had lost her,” recalls Betty Walsh, a volunteer in the intensive-care unit at the UCLA Medical Center. Then Walsh ushered in Koyla, a 145-lb. shaggy white Great Pyrenees, who climbed right up onto the woman’s bed and snuggled against her body. Five minutes passed in silence. Then the woman’s hand moved slowly toward the dog. She began to stoke his soft, thick coat. Another five minutes passed. The woman smiled and murmured, “So lovely…” “For half an hour she kept petting him and calling him ‘my friend,” says Walsh.

The whole time, I watched the blood-pressure monitor go down, down, down. ” Canine candy-striping is also used at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City for patients with brain and spinal cord injuries, at the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond for shock therapy patients, and in Texas for children recovering in burn units and to the calmer patients in Alzheimer’s wards (Roosevelt 1). “Professional therapists have come to value animals as therapeutic aids in treating simple problems like loneliness in the elderly or more complex disorders such as severe autism in children (Beck 161). Many studies have been conducted to show that pet therapy really works. An example is a study performed on a 19 year old psychotic boy who would spend most of his time in bed. Recreational and individual therapy did not improve his condition. Before receiving electroshock therapy, a therapist decided to use the companionship of a dog. Upon seeing the dog, the boy jumped out of bed and held it closely. When the dog left the room, the boy followed it immediately to everyone’s surprise (Beck 157-58). Patients with pets, or patients that receive pet therapy, are proven to live longer.

Pets cure loneliness, especially for the elderly. Pets take their minds off of the loneliness the patient feels and offers them a sense of security and protection. Pets also give patients the will to live by providing a calm and positive environment (Pawprints 1-2). Ellen Whiteley writes about a study where out of 92 coronary patients, 11 out of 29 people without pets that were hospitalized for one year died compared to the 3 out of 53 who had pets and died. This study clearly shows that having a pet by your side, while sick, will help your condition (1).

Alan Beck states the following example of a cat helping a patient Mary: The health care team at the home meets to decide which resident can derive the greatest benefit from living in the private therapy room. The current resident, Marie, was chosen because she had no family or friends, would not communicate, and remained curled in the fetal position with no interest in living. She also had sores on her legs from continual scratching. When other measures failed, she was moved in with Handsome (the resident cat). Whenever she began to scratch her legs, the cat played with her hands and distracted her.

Within a month the sores were healed. She began to watch the cat and to talk with the staff about him. Gradually she invited other residents in to visit with him. Now she converses with strangers, as well as the nursing home staff, about the cat and other subjects (158). Pets have also been used with people who experience dementia of the Alzheimer’s Type (DAT). “According to Thomas, animals in the nursing home setting promote diversity and stimuli for meaningful interactions between and among residents, family members, visitors, and staff (Baun 44). The presence of these animals makes for more of a home and less of an institution.

Research shows that companion animals actually increase socialization and decrease agitation and physiological stress on the person with DAT. In some cases, people would train a dog to warn the caregiver if the patient was doing a dangerous activity like leaving the home (Baun 48). The dangers of pet therapy are very limited. Animals that don’t meet certain criteria are not allowed into the hospital. Domestic pets are primarily disease free, but there can be occasional rabies carriers. Hospital staff and other patients are at very high risk of disease carried by animals used for therapeutic purposes.

Pets can carry in fleas and other insects that could infect and pass on a deadly disease or virus to a patient (About 9). Patients might also have exotic pets such as birds or some type of reptile. These animals carry an intestinal infection called Salmonella. If a sick patient caught this disease, their chance of survival would be slim (Beck 266). All animals must go through a certain procedure first before being allowed into the hospital. They must be tested for any type of disease before acceptance into the hospital. Sometimes AAA and PFT are not beneficial to the patient.

The following are some examples: when animals cause a rivalry in a group of people, when a patient becomes possessive of a visiting animal, injury may happen due to inappropriate handling, animal selection might be too dangerous, people with brain injury might provoke an animal without realizing it, some patients might think that an animal is rejecting them and make that lower their self-esteem, allergies might cause problems, the animal might lose control and attack a patient, and diseases might be passed between the animal and the patient (About 9). PFT could also be disadvantageous to the animals.

Animals that keep visiting people might cause the animal to have stress (Katcher 85). In a survey posted by Nursing Standard, readers were asked the following question: Should patients in hospital be allowed visits from pets to promote recovery? Kate Chapman who is a nurse in north London gives her response: Pets occupy a treasured place in many households and the health benefits are well known. However, the diseases that animals carry are dangerous. Groups particularly at risk are older people, pregnant women, children under five, and people with a suppressed immune system.

In my experience it would be impossible to find any area in any hospital that did not have at least two representatives of the above groups….. If a pet’s visit can be arranged to take place outside the hospital, where it will not put others at risk, it should be allowed (1). Mat O’Connor, a nursing student at Bournemouth University, gives his opinion on the topic as well, “Many studies have shown the positive effects that pet therapy can have on the chronically ill, older people, children and people with mental disabilities.

It would seem, therefore, to be a natural progression to allow patients visits from their pets or a specially trained animal (Nursing 1). Pets help people of all ages and illnesses, but perhaps pets benefit the elderly the most. The most serious disease for the elderly is loneliness (Pawprints 1). The presence of a pet can improve morale and create a sense of humor in depressed patients (Cusack 39). Animals also give the patient the will to live in a nursing home (Pawprints 2). In a study of cats by Clark Brickel, it was proven that cats help the patients keep in touch with the real world.

Patients would save food from their meals to feed to the cats if they thought the cat was looking sick. Brickel says the food saving showed that the cats were a part of the patients real life. They were aware of the cats needs and changed their behavior to accommodate the cat (Cusack 39). Pets also benefit children in growing up and maturing. The animal is sometimes used as an imaginary companion or the object of a fantasy. As the child gets older, he/she starts taking responsibility for the pet. They will start feeding them and taking them on walks. Pets also help the child find their identity when growing up (Levinson 43-47).

Levinson states, “When a child has a pet with which he works and toward which he expresses a wide range of feelings, he can get a better understanding of what he is like and what his strengths and limitations are (48). ” Pet therapy should start being used in hospitals world-wide. AAA, PFT, or AAT, and Canine candy-striping are very successful ways of treating patients. The Pawprints and Purrs Association states, “The innocence of animals and their ability to love makes animals special. Human beings want to be part of their world, to connect with them in a mysterious and powerful way that will strengthen and nurture both humans and animals. Pawprints 3)” Studies have proven that animals can help us live healthier, longer, and happier lives (Cusack 4). Pets are fun to watch, they provide us with companionship, they give us something to care and look after for, they give us fun activities to do, they make us feel protected, they return the elderly to play and laughter, they work as a stimulus to exercise, and they love you back. Beck quotes, “The animal loves you whether you have just won or lost your fortune in the stock market, whether you smell of perfume or soiled underwear, whether you are old and poor or young and rich, crippled or ugly.

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