Your dog Fido has a new job. The growing field of pet and animal-assisted therapy is boosting wellness for those who need it most: the elderly, the hospitalised, and those needing at-home care.

For example Delta Therapy Dogs is a heartwarming program that brings the joys of animal companionship to those who need it most. Delta's amazing and devoted volunteer Therapy Dog Teams with over 1000+ volunteers and their special dogs brighten the lives of an estimated 20,000 Australians in hospitals and care facilities every week. There are currently over 850 facilities involved nationally ranging from aged care through to acute care hospitals for children and adults as well as mental health, prisons and dementia specific facilities.

Founded in 1991 by Animals Asia, the "Dr Dog" program brings people in need of a best friend in the form of a pet.

Dogs, cats, birds, fish, horses – even a therapeutic, interactive robot named Paro that looks like a fluffy seal – can transform your well-being by simply spending time with you to:

  • Reduce depression, irritability and agitation, while increasing social engagement, which has happened to people with Alzheimer's and dementia who groom, play with and walk pets.
  • Ease anxiety. A two-year study funded by Alberta Health shows fewer panic attacks in 80 percent of people given dog companions.
  • Manage pain, as found in studies on cancer patients who were visited weekly by dogs.
  • Lower hypertension and heart attacks particularly in cardiac patients who interact with furry friends. Patients have shown lower adrenalin levels associated with stress.
  • Decrease sleeplessness, suicidal thoughts and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In one study, 82 percent of PTSD sufferers given service dogs reported reduced symptoms within one month.
  • Create more happiness and comfort by increasing levels of the feel-good hormone oxytocin. Petting a dog, cat or rabbit for 15-30 minutes is shown to increase stress-beating hormones.
  • Foster healing after surgery and invasive medical procedures, even dental appointments, as patients relax and focus on other things than their pain or anxiety.

If you or an ageing loved one needed therapy, would you be willing to try pet therapy?

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