What is Pet Therapy?

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Here is some sage medical advice:

“Get your annual check up.”
“Make sure you exercise regularly.”

“Eat your vegetables.”
“Pet something soft.”

Wait...What?  That’s right! More and more, psychologists and medical professionals are uncovering the numerous health benefits of animal-assisted therapy, or “pet therapy.” Not to be confused with “service pets” who provide physical or emotional support, therapy pets provide love and comfort to individuals through physical touch and personal interaction.

Clinical research has shown that engaging with animals increases your overall health and well-being. Alison White, a licensed clinical social worker associated with the National Alliance of Mental Illness observed that “Hugging and speaking with a pet who won’t judge you for your feelings or thoughts is cathartic and helps people get through rough times. Pets also reduce symptoms of anxiety or depression, giving people a reason to get up in the morning. Other benefits are unconditional love, acceptance, a ‘buddy’ that encourages physical activity, which leads to healthier lifestyles.” (1)

Other research has shown benefits on a physiological level as well. This primarily has to do with the release of oxytocin into the body which occurs while petting an animal. This can lower one’s blood pressure and relieve stress.  Dr. Cynthia Chandler, Ed.D, a counseling professor at the University of North Texas, notes “Oxytocin is one of the best, most powerful, wonderful, healthy social hormones we have and it’s the one that’s the most grossly affected in a positive way through human-animal interaction.” (2)

Our personal experience has shown how animals can bring joy and laughter to those who are experiencing stress from work or studies. We have also seen positive outcomes in our work with memory care patients, such as enhanced motor skills and cognitive enrichment, as they pet the animals and reminisce about their own childhood pets.

Tiny Tails to You has been privileged to partner with great assisted care facilities like Buckner Villas and Belmont Village to provide residents with monthly pet therapy sessions. We have also worked with local universities such as the University of Texas, St. Edward’s University, and Texas State University to provide stress relief sessions for students, especially around finals week. (3)

If you are an Activities Directory or medical professional in the Austin area interested in hosting a pet therapy session at your care facility or would like to coordinate a stress relief event at your place of work, please complete our Availability form to begin your booking process. For discount pricing, consider hosting a pet therapy session monthly or quarterly.

  1. “The Power of Pet Therapy” by Alison White (2016) (https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/November-2016/The-Power-of-Pet-Therapy)

  2. “The Truth About Animal-Assisted Therapy” by Brandi-Ann Uyemura (2018) (https://psychcentral.com/lib/the-truth-about-animal-assisted-therapy/)

  3. “School of Nursing Hosts ‘Hoppy Hour,’ Pet Therapy” by Reagan Ritterbush (2018) (http://www.dailytexanonline.com/2018/03/09/school-of-nursing-hosts-%E2%80%9Choppy-hour%E2%80%9D-pet-therapy)