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The Benefits of Pet Therapy

Pet TherapyWith a swish of her tail, she gracefully leaps into my lap and starts to purr.  “She” is Anastasia, my Siberian cat. Having her near me is a constant source of comfort and happiness.

Many residents of senior living communities have discovered the job of pet ownership.  One of the many advantages of having a dog or cat as a pet is the companionship, affection, and unconditional loyalty that you get on a daily basis.  However, the benefits do not stop here.

Studies show that taking care of a pet can also help with:

    • Physical fitness.  Walking your dog twice a day can provide a half hour or more of exercise, which can lower your risk for heart disease.
    • Improve mental health. A new pet can bring new experiences in your life, and also a need for additional research on how to take care of the pet.  Reading about pet ownership and discussing this topic with others keeps the mind stimulated and sharp.
    • Social Interaction. Walking a dog will also provide additional opportunities to meet and chat with neighbors, as do visits to the vet’s office and the pet store.
    • Improve mood. Playing with and taking care of a pet can enhance the levels of endorphins and release serotonin, which help you to become calm and relaxed, improve mood, lower anxiety and promote stress relief and lower blood pressure.

 

 

Adopting a pet from a shelter will not only benefit the elderly. An unwanted dog or cat’s life will improve tremendously by joining the home of a kind new owner, who is likely retired and has plenty of time to spend with their new pet.

It’s important to match up the pet and owner as well as possible. The pet you choose has to fit into your lifestyle, physical abilities, and other factors, such as allergies and sensitivities to shedding or accidents. For those who have physical constraints and will not be able to take a dog for daily walks, a cat may be a better idea. Or you may consider a small dog who is trained to go inside, or possibly even a small bird!  Make sure you discuss any side effects or allergies when purchasing the pet, bring it to the vet for a physical examination as soon as possible.

You can take advantage of many of these benefits even if you do not have a pet of your own, by visiting a neighbor or friend who is a pet owner and spend a leisurely afternoon with your human friend and their pet!

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