By Annaben Kazemi
Since the beginning of time, humans and animals have shared a powerful bond. This bond has been a source of solace and relief for those who suffer from physical and/or emotional pain. Many chronically ill patients have stated that animal-assisted therapy has helped them while they are undergoing difficult medical treatments, providing one more reminder of the vital role that animals can play in every aspect of our lives.
I was personally reminded of this recently when my daughter underwent her IVIG treatment with our little dog curled up on her lap. Our dog, a 3-pound Yorkie named Charmaine (a name that literally means charm) seemed to sense her distress and came to her, offering unconditional love and acceptance throughout the procedure.
Charmaine originally was a rescue dog. We adopted her when she was a year and a half, and she has definitely charmed her way into our lives. She is spoiled, and I tell my daughter all the time to stop indulging her. She sleeps on my daughter’s bed, rides in the car on the way to school and enjoys being groomed every day. She is joyous and happy to see us whenever we come home. She always knows how to cuddle when one of us is sad, and she literally licks our tears when we cry. She puts us at ease when we’re upset, and she is the only one in the house that can wake my daughter up in the morning without putting her in a bad mood. Charmaine, our little Yorkie, has captured our hearts.
As my daughter caressed Charmaine during her IVIG treatment, I could see her visibly relax and the tension leave her body. Never was it more clear to me than at that moment that our pets have a profound and positive effect on us, especially when we don’t feel well or are trying to cope with something intense such as a chronic illness.
Pet therapy has been proved through scientific studies to benefit the patient. Lower medication costs, longer life, increased alertness and an improved mood are just some of the health benefits of pet therapy. Here are some other examples:
- The elderly have higher levels of social interaction when they have a pet.
- Children who are allowed to pet a dog while undergoing a painful medical procedure require less pain medication.
- Patients with hypertension who watched fish swim in an aquarium were able to lower their blood pressure.
While pet therapy should not be considered a replacement for conventional medicine, it is a wonderfully effective complementary therapy. And as pet therapy becomes more widespread, an increasing number of hospitals have begun to implement pet therapy programs.
Whether the medical condition is chronic or acute, the advantages of pet therapy have been undoubtedly proved. There is no doubt in my mind that pets have that sixth sense and can help us cope with stressful situations, break the isolation and offer comfort. It is Charmaine’s unconditional loyalty and acceptance that reassured my daughter of her well-being and brought her comfort.
Do you have a special pet in your life?