We all know our furry friends make our lives better.

But did you know they’re being used in hospital and therapy settings to relieve pain and stress and make patients’ lives better?

Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) has been shown to fight depression, decrease loneliness in seniors, help autistic children communicate, and reduce pain and stress in children after surgery. And those are just a few of the many benefits!

We put this fun infographic together to show 11 ways AAT is positively affecting sick, injured, elderly, and mentally unwell patients across the country.

If more people know that these methods are available, we’re hopeful that more therapy animals can be deployed. The more people in hospitals or therapy who see animals during their recovery, the better their lives will be during the stressful and often painful times they’re going through.

Emily Parker runs Catological, a blog dedicated to helping cat parents love their kitties better. She has lived in both dog and cat homes and is excited to introduce a new dog to her family (which includes 2 cats) in the coming year.

Key Guide: 

Did you know that more and more research is coming out that proves the immense benefits of Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT)?

Here’s how cats, dogs, and other AAT friends help reduce plain and improve our quality of life:

1. Calm You Down and Reduce Stress & Anxiety

Petting and being around dogs, cats and other animals have been shown to reduce cortisol, a hormone released when under stress.

2. Keep Your Heart Healthy (And Help You Live Longer!)

Being around animals, whether your own pet or a therapy animal, can help to lower blood pressure, reduce heart rate, reduce your rate of stroke, and reduce your rate of having a heart attack.

3. Give you a friend to increase companionship and reduce loneliness. 

Particularly important for the elderly who may not have other opportunities for social interaction, animal-assisted therapy has been proven to increase the feelings of companionship by lowering the feelings of loneliness in seniors.

4. Fight Depression and improve your mood

Feeling depressed? A Swiss study showed the cats were actually just as effective as significant others at cheering us up!

5. Help autistic children communicate and relax

Animal-assisted therapy can really help children with autism when it comes to improving social interactions, increasing communication, and relieving stress.

6. Reduce Stress and Pain in Children After Surgery 

Animal-assisted therapy helps children become more aware, vigilant, and active when coming out of anesthesia following a surgery.

7. Help Heart Failure Patients Recover 

Animal-assisted therapy improves cardiopulmonary pressures, neurohormone levels, and anxiety in patients hospitalized with heart failure.

8. Help Hospitalized Patients Feel Better 

Hospitalized patients noticed a significant decrease in pain, respiratory rate, and negative mood when they were in contact with a therapy animal.

9. Improve Well-Being of Patients and their Families 

By introducing therapy dog visits, chronic pain patients experienced less pain, but their family members and friends who visited also felt significantly less emotional distress, while increasing their general feeling of well-being.

10. Help you get through physical therapy and recover from surgery

When a therapy dog was added to a standard physical therapy program for patients recovering from a total joint replacement surgery, the patients have an easier time getting through the therapy program because they felt less pain, communicated better with the nurses, and generally feel better about the experience.

11. Reduce your pain, improve your mood, and feel better while waiting 

Spending time with a therapy animal instead of sitting in a waiting room put fibromyalgia patients in a better mood, reduced the pain they felt, and generally decreased their level of distress.

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