Seunga (Jasmine) Han, PharmD Student
Pets have a natural tendency to create bonds and show affection towards their owners. This in itself helps to create a warm and safe environment even for the most stressful days.
So, where do pets fit into medicine and mental health?
Pet therapy (aka animal-assisted therapy) is the notion of including animals as part of a treatment plan for managing a chronic condition.
What does research say?
A research study facilitated with dolphins has shown that animal-assisted therapy (AAT) was beneficial to those with mild-to-moderate depression. People with mild-to-moderate depression experienced reduced levels of depression in a study looking at animal-assisted therapy facilitated with dolphins.
In a separate study, people struggling with schizophrenia were able to see significant improvements in self-esteem and self-determination with weekly 50-minute sessions with dogs.
Lastly, there is also some body of evidence to support that AAT can have positive outcomes in those experiencing autism-spectrum symptoms, behavioural issues and overall emotional well-being.
What are the take-home points?
People struggling with mental-health related conditions may find some benefit with animal-assisted therapy. More larger-scale studies are needed before we can see where it’d be the most beneficial.
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- Animal-assisted therapy: a meta-analysis – http://patastherapeutas.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/MetaAna%CC%81lise.pdf
- Effectiveness of animal-assisted therapy: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24731910