Pet Therapy

There are many compelling studies which have confirmed the therapeutic value of Pet Therapy for both children and adults who are physically or emotionally vulnerable.

The power of animal interaction can produce life-changing effects in anxious humans who feel the non-judgemental presence of an animal as a soothing companion.

Apart from the benefit of companionship, the presence of an animal is known to lower stress levels and blood pressure, raise self-esteem, reduce depression and increase verbal skills as well as the obvious benefits of exercise.

The general social, psychological and physiological benefits have been researched exhaustively and it is clear that disorders such as PTSD, ADHD, Autism and sensory disabilities respond particularly well to Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT).

Therapy animals can be any species such as fish, birds, horses, guinea pigs and cats, but dogs are the main heroes who can have the greatest impact on a child’s mental health.  Canines can be trained for service, promote prosocial behaviours and provide reassurance.  Like the autistic child, dogs love patterns, structure, repetition and sequences and are successful at distracting from stressful situations.

They can calm a child in meltdown by licking and leaning on them, or applying deep pressure by lying across them like a warm, weighted blanket and improving sleep patterns.  They stimulate the ability to cuddle and smile and communicate more, as well as play and improve interaction with those around them by instilling confidence.   Patience is also a virtue which a therapy dog can teach, owing to their own ability to exhibit endless patience.  Children with ADHD have been taught to lie calmly alongside their dog for hours which few adults have been able to achieve.

Children on the autistic spectrum often show great progress with their verbal skills with animals and studies have shown that having a pet in the classroom while a child is learning will soothe anxiety and improve behaviour and memory.

Equine therapy which specialises in providing safe horses for vulnerable adults and children also has many excellent social and physical benefits.

Emotional Support Animals offer pets which can help an autistic child to travel without the problems often associated with this form of activity, in a chaotic school environment or even when medical interventions are required.  These pets can act as a form of comforter and non-judgemental support which children on the spectrum may find threatening in human beings.  It has often been described as a ‘different form of energy’ which vulnerable children respond to more easily.

Before embarking on the Pet Therapy path, allergies to pet dander would need to be addressed with the organisation to ensure child and pet is safe and temperaments compatibly matched.

Below are organisations which will give further information on Pet Therapy:

Pets As Therapy

Emotional Support Animals UK Registry (

Animal Assisted Therapy | HugglePets in the Community

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”

Anatole France

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