Pets as Therapy – The Importance of Pets for our Health

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Pets as Therapy – The Importance of Pets for our Health

I was recently talking to a friend about his pet cat and how he came into his life. His story confirmed that pets often choose their owners, as he first met his cat on the way to the corner shop and, quite literally, followed him home! We were talking about the importance of having that connection with another being, especially when you live alone. And I was reflecting on how Mitsy, my own cat, came into my life and has brought me so much joy, love and companionship. The connection that owners have with their pets is often very strong, very healing and very beneficial. At the marina where I live, very few people are without a pet of some kind, and we live so close to nature that we are surrounded by wildlife on a daily basis.

 

My own cat Mitsy at 10 weeks old ... Aww!

My own cat Mitsy at 10 weeks old … Aww!

 

It made me think about how important pets can be for our health. It is said that stroking a cat can help lower your blood pressure and lower your risk of a heart attack, there have been several studies done that confirm this (see resources). It is widely accepted that owning a pet, is, on the whole, beneficial for stress relief and wellbeing.

One of my patients this week enquired what I was planning to write my blog on, and when I told her the subject she said that in her work as an OT (Occupational Therapist) for the NHS (National Health Service), pets are used as a therapy tool. I was amazed by this concept! In one example dogs were taken into the therapy sessions and  patients who had suffered a stroke were encouraged to hold and pet the dogs with their affected limbs. In another case a small dog was taken round the ward for patients to pet and fuss. One patient who hadn’t spoken following his stroke actually spoke again after spending some time with the little dog. Amazing results and incredible that such methods are used within such a well-established institution!

If you have a pet, what is their value to your own health and wellbeing? Please feel free to share and comment on the facebook page here. I’d love to find out about you and your pets and what they mean to you.

Paw-sing for thought,

Louise x

This blog post has been written to celebrate AVMA’s National Pet Week (1st-7th May 2016). To book a free consultation for Acupuncture or Chinese Medicine with Louise please call 01283 516444 (Natural Healthcare Centre, Burton-on-Trent) or 01332 521270 (Bridge Centre for Natural Health, Derby).

Resources

AVMA (2016) National Pet Week. Available here.

Paddock, C (PhD) (2008) Cat Owners Have Lower Heart Attack Risk. Available here.

Vormbrock, J, Grossberg, J. (1988) Cardiovascular effects of human-pet dog interactions. J Behav Med. Oct;11(5):509-17. Abstract available here.