The Benefits of Pets

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Dogs and a Survivor

Animals have been used for improving the functional and emotional state of humans for thousands of years. Their main job is to offer emotional support to individuals experiencing various physical or mental disabilities.

Emotional Support from Pets
Studies have shown that pet ownership has psychological benefits. Interacting with a pet has been linked to lower blood pressure, increased exercise, and stronger immune systems. Pet owners tend to be less lonely, have higher self-esteem, be more extroverted, and have less fear about getting close to other people.

People with aphasia and other communication difficulties have even more need of the psychological support of pets. A majority of people who have aphasia experience depression, which makes emotional support all the more important. These animals need no words to provide their handlers with unconditional love and mental support. They neither judge a person for their inability to speak, nor make them feel bad about it.

Just the presence of a loving pet can provide solace - your cat curled up on your lap may comfort you as well as holding hands with the person seated next to you during a plane’s takeoff and landing. Because dogs are known for their empathy, they are most often selected as therapy companions. 

Some reasons to have a dog:

Not just for emotional support
Household pets can provide significant support during brain rehabilitation, but in addition, there are specially trained service and therapy animals who may provide additional assistance, depending on the needs of the survivor. Service animals may fall into the following categories:
  • Service animals. Usually dogs who are trained to help people with disabilities such as visual impairments, mental illnesses, seizure disorders, or diabetes. In a person recovering from a brain injury, a service animal may provide assistance with balance or walking. Service dogs often live with their humans, and may enter environments otherwise closed to animals, such as restaurants, by right of the Americans with Disabilities Act. For more info about service dogs:
  • Therapy animals. These animals (usually dogs) are trained to provide comfort and affection to people in schools, hospitals, and clinics. One therapy animal may serve many people in a therapeutic setting. If you're looking at a therapy pet, see these sites:
  • Emotional support animals. These trained animals may provide therapy through companionship. You can think of them as pets who have the right to enter some environments otherwise denied to animals, such as airplanes, upon following proper procedures. For more info, see Everything You Need to Know about Emotional Support Animals.