1. Denford

    Very Informative post! It has always been my dream to give people a chance to heal through the help and compassion from animals. I know the most common animals are cats, dogs, horses and llamas in most therapy setups.

    But I’ve heard of some cases where birds are used for this same purpose. I heard of a woman who uses macaws to help people cope with pain.
    I’d like to know please, what do you think of parrots in pet therapy?

    • Thabo

      Hi Denford,

      Parrots are known to be very empathetic and tuned into the emotional environment around them. That means they can sense stress and tension, and distress in their owners. This unique trait means they can be trained to help individuals with psychological or emotional disability.

      In one famous case, to illustrate, a bipolar man relied on his empathetic African parrot to intuit when a rage-like episode was coming on and encourage him to “calm down”. The parrot was trained to repeat soothing phrases and sounds to talk him down. So to answer your question, parrots can help people deal with emotional pain.

  2. Patricia

    My mum is a major dog lover but I know she will struggle about not being in a home. Although I’ve promised to take her with me to walk with my dog, but I’m just wondering how common it is to find pet therapy dogs going to visit homes.

    • Thabo

      Hi Patricia,

      Pet therapy dogs are trained to be at ease in all kinds of settings where chronic pain sufferers need healing– from hospitals to adult care communities. I don’t think it will be difficult to find a pet therapy dog for home visits.

  3. R. Freeman

    I think it goes without saying that pets are beyond impactful when dealing with our struggles. It is kind of amazing in a simple, beautiful way how they can take our minds off things. I am actually a huge fan of therapy animals, I think you did an excellent job of specifying the differences between them and service animals. It is an important distinction. Service animals are a must but there are certain things an animal cannot be trained to do, it just comes naturally, such as being a companion to those who need it in a more significant way than usual. Some people just need to not be alone and a therapy animal provides that comfort to them. I think this is only the beginning of using animals in our healthcare.

    • You are certainly correct when you talk about pet therapy being at the beginning and not end of alternative ways to help people with emotional and health problems. Just recently I read how pets are being used by libraries to help shy kids become better readers. The kids read to the dogs. since the dogs don’t judge them,just listen, the kids become more confident and their reading skills improve dramatically.

  4. Alexander

    Really informative.
    I have always had this special affection and love for dogs. I cherish the fact that they seem special among all other animals when it comes to domestication. they could feel your pain when you are down, they share in your joy when you are happy, and easily understand you. So I’m actually not surprised that they are also used for pet therapy.
    It’s a great development for science and medicine

    • Hi Alexander,
      I think there have been many strides in pain management that don’t require dependence on medication. More and more medical professionals are starting to realize the psychological benefits of non-invasive and natural treatments that address the isolation and hopelessness which sometimes accompany chronic illness. I think animal therapy is one of the most promising new approaches to pain management.

  5. Arielle

    Very informative article. You make a lot of good points on the benefits of animal therapy. I’m glad you point out that there’s a difference between therapy dogs and service dogs. As R. Freeman points out, there are certain things that an animal cannot be trained to do.

    • Hi Arielle,
      As I pointed out in my post,several studies have shown that by simply petting an animal, a depression patient’s brain can be triggered to release chemicals known as endorphins that produce a calming effect. This can help alleviate pain, reduce stress, and improve your overall psychological state. Endorphins are chemicals produced by the body to counteract the body’s feeling of pain by creating a sense of pleasure rather than pain. That said, it’s important, as you point out, that therapy dogs are used and not service dogs. The training of therapy dogs and service dogs is completely different. Also, one has to be careful that animals used for therapy are themselves healthy so as not to spread spread illness. Otherwise, animal therapy has proven to be a great alternative to pills.

  6. Thabo,
    Thanks for pointing out the difference in service and therapy pets. Some will need a combination of the two.
    We have a rescue cat that offers therapy for my 85 year old aunt. Just taking care and making sure the cat has all that it needs helps her keep active. When she sits down to watch TV in the evening the cat sits on her lap. With out the cat, I think she would be lonely and have less of a sense of purpose in life.

    • Hi John,
      Thanks for your story illustrating the value of therapy pets. I agree with you that often therapy pets, like a cat, can give one a sense of purpose in life. Thanks for checking in. Have a great day.

  7. This is an awesome post providing so much information on pet therapy. I am an avid dog lover so I know the comforts a dog can provide and sometimes in my case anxiety, I am sure the anxiety is having seven hounds. I would not trade them for the world though, as they are my world. Many evenings you will see me curled up on the couch with at least two dogs if not more as it is very relaxing just to cuddle with them and stoking them gently. The bonds and love that are formed between dogs and humans is awesome. I can see where pet therapy can be very beneficial.

    • Hello Dena,
      I am especially glad that a an avid dog lover such as yourself found this post useful. Yes, I agree with you that the special bond formed between dogs and humans makes pet therapy very beneficial. Thanks so much for sharing your story with the hounds. I loved it.


  8. Pet therapy really has changed my own life living with chronic pain since my mid 30’s, if it was not for my dogs I don’t know how I would ever got through my worse years


    • Hi Jeff,
      The wonderful thing is that medical experts who were once skeptical are now embracing the benefits of pet therapy. This means that more people will be encouraged to reach for their dog instead of before reaching for the pill to manage their depression. I think this is a good thing. I’m so glad your dogs brought you relief when you needed it. Thanks for checking in and telling your story.

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