After we posted a picture of Anikka’s gorgeous dog, Noodle, it got us thinking about the amazing bond between humans and animals and the part they play in our lives. In some households, pets play an important role in the family dynamic, but in some cases they are all of these and so much more.
The advantages of pet rehabilitation is nothing new. From long-term care facilities, veterans with post dramatic stress disorder to children with intellectual and development disabilities, pet therapy, as it is more widely known, has huge benefits.
Let’s face it, the mere sight of a cute puppy, fluffy kitten, or sweet bunny is enough to lift anyone spirits. But whilst we would never advocate getting a dog, cat or any other pet simply because you or a loved one is ill, the proven health benefits of animals are vast.
Reducing stress - Going through cancer treatments or any long term illness can be challenging and tiring. Stress levels can have a negative impact on your health. Being around a pet and having physical contact such as stroking them, can actually lead to the body producing oxytocin, a hormone that reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol, according to scientists. Even hardened criminals in prison have shown long-term changes in their behaviour after interacting with dogs, many of them experiencing mutual affection for the first time. Stroking, hugging, or otherwise touching a loving animal can rapidly calm and soothe us.
Company - Even if you are surrounded by friends and loved ones, undergoing treatment can be lonely. Friends and relatives might not fully understand what you are feeling, but pets provide unconditional love, warmth and affection.
Distraction - Both cancer patients and caregivers have a lot on their minds. There is so much to juggle with treatment schedules and everyday responsibilities, and a pet can often be a welcome distraction.
Simplicity - Pets never ask questions, they don’t criticise and they don’t try to give advice – best of all, they are normally absolutely delighted to see you, however you are feeling. They don’t ask questions or need reassurance that everything will be okay.
Loyalty – Many cancer patients experience relationship breakdowns from friends or partners. More than any other animal, dogs have evolved to become acutely attuned to humans and our behaviour and emotions. While dogs are able to understand many of the words we use, they’re even better at interpreting our tone of voice, body language, and gestures. And like any good human friend, a loyal dog will look into your eyes to gauge your emotional state and try to understand what you’re thinking and feeling.
Boosting vitality - Dogs, and to a lesser degree cats, encourage playfulness, laughter, and exercise, which can help boost your immune system and increase your energy. Taking a dog for a walk, hike, or run are fun and rewarding ways to fit healthy daily exercise into your schedule. Studies have shown that dog owners are far more likely to meet their daily exercise requirements and that the regular walks deepens the connection between you and your dog. And according to Macmillan it has been proven that exercise has many benefits for cancer patients including preventing recurrence and combatting treatment-induced fatigue.
Helps provide meaning and joy in life – for those who live alone and might not be able to do many of the things they used to do that gave their life purpose such as working and socialising, caring for an animal can bring pleasure and help boost morale, optimism, sense of self-worth and bring routine.