Since the dawn of time, animals have accompanied man in work and everyday life. Their salutary, therapeutic abilities were already noticed in ancient times Is it still working? Discover zootherapy.
We all know that contact with an animal is a permanent element of our world. These beings, often called our best friends, can help, even where the doors of human possibilities are helpless.
Anyone who has ever had the pleasure of making friends with a creature like a dog or a cat knows perfectly well how their presence changes the bleak days of life, encourages, and motivates them to act.
However, not many people know well the secrets of zootherapy and start thinking of it when other forms of medical treatment do not work. Instead, you can prevent some illnesses by using zootherapy on an everyday basis.
Zootherapy - What Is That?
In animal therapy, sessions are held with the participation of a trained animal companion of one species. Such contact is not only a source of fun and pleasure, classes in the presence of a pet have a beneficial effect on mental illnesses, depression, neuroses, or physical pain.
The whole treatment focuses primarily on the patient and his contact with the being, thanks to which emotional blockages are released, the patient relaxes and learns.
There are two terms that are often confused: pet therapy and zootherapy because they are too often used to describe animal-assisted therapy and animal-assisted activities, both of which involve the presence of an animal for clinical or recreational purposes.
You also need to distinguish between animal-assisted activities and animal therapy.
Animal-assisted activities are not therapy. Their general purpose, usually recreational or educational is not therapeutic and does not have to be overlooked by a professional or therapist. Non-medical activities are included here.
For example, universities help people deal with stress and anxiety, and nursing homes to provide enjoyment and a sense of comfort.
Animal-assisted therapy (“real” zootherapy) is a professional therapeutic process in which an animal is introduced as an intermediate between the therapist and the individual facing difficulties. In this case, the animal is seen as a “partner” who helps facilitate the process to reach the specific therapeutic goals.
I will be writing about animal-assisted therapy here.
The Evidence That Zootherapy Works
Until the nineteenth-century zootherapy had not been accepted and disseminated as a natural method of treatment supporting a variety of therapies.
The beginnings of zootherapy took place in a psychiatric hospital in Ohio. The child psychologist Boris Levinson, an American, used his dog to help a mentally ill man.
Despite the extraordinary progress and effects that this method has achieved, at the beginning, it was used only as a complementary treatment for pharmacological treatment.
Levinson’s experiments were not recognised widely in the scientific world.
However, over time and thanks to many studies, zootherapy has become an alternative form of treatment, additionally complementing broadly understood rehabilitation. Here are some more pieces of evidence:
Patients went to a special facility to do in front of aquariums with brightly coloured fish. Through this procedure, these people ate more, got better nutrition and were less prone to pacing, less lethargy and more self-confidence were also observed there.
Anxiety, Autism and Depression
Quote In a 2016 study published in the journal Gerontology, elderly people who were given five crickets in a cage became less depressed after eight weeks than a control group.
In the case of children with anxiety, manifested by reading aloud difficulty, when they read aloud to a trained dog the symptoms were present less often.
When children with autism had a guinea pig in the classroom, they were more social with their peers, smiled and laughed more, and showed fewer signs of stress.
In the case of adults, they were told to pet a rabbit, a turtle or their toy forms. The toys had no effect. However, when these people stroked a living creature, whether hard-shelled or furry, it relieved anxiety.
High Blood Pressure
Interacting with animals has been shown to decrease levels of cortisol (a stress-related hormone) and lower blood pressure. Other studies have found that animals can reduce loneliness, increase feelings of social support, and boost your mood.
Learn more about how to stay healthy - the article continues below:
Benefits of Contact with Animals
Why are animals, such excellent therapists? The answer is: they do not notice the difference between a healthy person and a sick or disabled person.
They do not judge; they love and accept us unconditionally. Animals do not pretend, they are not paralyzed by fear of the sick, which is why they behave naturally.
Thanks to this behaviour, they allow people with disabilities to remain themselves, which simply means that these people can feel comfortable and allow themselves to feel spontaneous and true.
Contact with a pet eliminates aggression, shapes positive emotions, calms down, develops empathy in patients and improves self-esteem.
Animals often induce laughter, and conversation and help in establishing interpersonal contacts. They help to relax, detach thoughts from failures, eliminate fears and teach to externalize emotions and feelings.
In addition, they encourage patients to exercise or increase their activity in everyday life. More benefits of zootherapy:
• Animals improve assisted or independent movement
• motor skills and joint movement is better
• self-esteem increases
• patients developing social skills
• interactions with others are visibly improved
• verbal communication is increased
• people are more willing to join in activities
• zootherapy motivates willingness to exercise
Pet therapy can be useful for the treatment of serious diseases, together with medication:
• people undergoing chemotherapy
• residents in long-term care facilities
• children undergoing physical or dental procedures
• people hospitalized with chronic heart failure
• patients struggling with mental health disorders
• post-traumatic stress disorder victims
• stroke victims and people undergoing physical therapy to regain motor skills
The Medical Procedure of Zootherapy
as I wrote above, zootherapy can be used together with academic medicine. Here is the procedure used during treatment:
The Diagnosis and Choice of Therapy
Professional zootherapy (pet therapy here) starts with a medical examination and diagnosis. The conditions listed above qualify the patient to be referred to one of the outlets specialising in pet therapy.
In the case of hospitals, special norms have to be met.
The Choice of a Pet
Before an animal and its handler can participate in pet therapy, the team must fulfil certain requirements. This process typically includes:
• A physical examination of the animal - it must be immunized and free of diseases. Certificates are required.
• The trainer’s skills in interacting with other people. An instructional course is required here.
• A certification from the sponsoring organization
• an obedience training course to ensure proper animal control
• an evaluation of the animal’s temperament and behaviour with the handler
Once a team of an animal and a handler is approved, animals are assigned for therapy based on a specific person’s needs.
Monitoring of the Treatment
The progress of zootherapy is monitored by your doctor and in the case of mental issues - also by a psychologist. Goals are set and evaluated regularly. If your progress is slower or faster than expected, they may alter your treatment plan.
Types of Treatment
1. Therapeutic visitation is the most common type of pet therapy, in which owners take their personal pets to visit healthcare facilities. Many hospitalized patients miss the pets they left at home.
A visit from a pet can motivate them to get better so they can return home to their own fur babies.
2. Animal-assisted therapy involves animals specially trained to assist physical and occupational therapists with their patients. Pets can improve limb mobility and fine motor skills in patients as they stroke their coats.
Imagine how a game of fetch could help improve a patient’s physical AND mental state! Plus, therapy pets help patients relearn pet care skills so they can take care of their own pets when they return home.
3. Facility therapy is a little different. These therapy pets often reside at the care centre and are trained to monitor and engage patients with Alzheimer’s disease or other mental illnesses. They learn the limitations and boundaries of the residents and help keep them safe.
Which Animals Are Used
Each corner of the world has its own techniques for this natural method of treatment. In the world, there are known treatments of Guinea pig therapy, onotherapy with the participation of donkeys or dolphin therapy, which consists of human-dolphin contact. In central Europe, these three treatments are the most frequent:
In this case, a trained dog participates in training. Usually, Bernese Shepherd Dogs, Labradors, Newfoundland and Golden Retrievers are allowed. These animals can be gentle and some breeds not belonging to guard dogs are also accepted.
Before starting treatment, the patient is introduced to his "therapist" so that they can find a common language and step by step build a thread of understanding. During the classes, tasks and pleasant games are performed that serve development.
Dog therapy is especially useful in the case of children, most often these are individual or conducted in groups of two or three people exercise. Dogs were excellent therapists in the case of physical, mental, intellectual, and social issues.
It is a therapy in which cats are used. The main building block is sound and touch, which is why cats adapt perfectly to them. By stroking these furriers the patient calms down and relaxes.
Purring of these creatures allows you to soothe frayed nerves, relieve pain and stimulate the senses. It is proven that contact with a cat lowers blood pressure and reduces cholesterol levels.
A cat can detect the place of pain and illness and lies comfortably in the ailing zone neutralizing ailments.
Cat therapy is perfect for mental and motor disorders, hyperactivity, anxiety, and depression. Also, elderly sick people or children with Down syndrome, Asperger's syndrome, ADHD and Autism can benefit from cat therapy.
No special breed or training is required in the case of cats, but they e must be calm, like hugging, stroking, and carrying on their hands.
Classes are performed with the help of trained, gentle, and friendly horses and these classes may take many forms.
Most often, this form of treatment is used in people with physical disabilities. People taking part in exercises regulate muscle tone, acquire the correct gait pattern, and perfect balance, and improve their orientation and sense of rhythm.
In addition, contact with an ungulate animal strengthens the bond with nature, develops social skills and motivates the patient.
Such classes are conducted under the supervision of a doctor and therapist. The horse is selected according to the needs, weight, height and age of the patient. The selected animal must be obedient, patient, not shy and gentle.
A Word of Caution
Although zootherapy has many benefits, some level of risk is also included. The main problems can be caused by:
• Safety and sanitation – more details are below.
• Allergies - people who are allergic to animal dander may have reactions during pet therapy.
• Unsuitable animals can be used (too aggressive, disobedient.
• Inappropriate handling by patients – by doing activities causing injury or pain. Examples: dropping a small dog or cat, squeezing a larger one.
• Reluctance to finish therapy because of the bond created between the patient and the animal. This can result in low self-esteem and depression.
• Greater risk for kids, pregnant women, and people with a weakened immune system.
• Not all people like animals.
Improve Your Safety and Sanitation
To minimise the risk of an infection or an injury, take some precautions. Always wash your hands thoroughly after contact with animals.
Supervise children and prevent them from kissing, or putting their hands or object into the animal’s mouth.
Avoid litter boxes during pregnancy because of the exposure to exposure to toxoplasmosis, a parasitic disease spread through the faeces of infected cats.
In a Nutshell
Today I have presented to you how zootherapy can help people with various health issues, the most common kinds of this treatment, the procedure and the necessary precautions that must be taken to make zootherapy healthy and beneficial. Make the most of it in your life. Good luck. With lots of love and light,
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Vicky is an experienced holistic writer and coach who inspires, motivates, and encourages everyone to become the best version of themselves - physically, mentally, and spiritually.
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