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The Furry Quotient: How Animals Make an Impact on Wellness

From Wellness Interactive Branding, LLC.

Who May Benefit from Canine Therapy & ESAs?

Do you think you or someone you care about could benefit from therapeutic activity with animals? There is a wide range of people who are taking advantage of canine therapy, as well as help from other emotional support animals (ESAs).  Also known as “comfort” animals, an ESA is a “companion animal that a medical professional has determined provides benefit for an individual with a disability.” This can be a variety of physical, psychiatric, or intellectual circumstances or health conditions. ESAs are covered by federal law in regard to housing under the US. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). 

ESAs are an additional category outside of service dogs, which are typically more highly trained. But ESAs come in many breeds and do provide help and support to many people with anxiety, depression, and other areas of mental wellness.

Service dogs are often Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Lab/Golden mixes, and German Shepherds.  People who may benefit from having a service dog include individuals who have:

  • Visual impairment
  • Hearing impairment
  • Post -Traumatic Stress Disorder and other psychological needs
  • Seizures
  • Mobility impairment
  • Diabetes, and more

Whether you or a loved one may be interested in an ESA or a service dog, know it can be a life-changing decision that can make a huge impact on your quality of life.

Support for Children & Adults

Both children and adults can benefit from a relationship with an animal. Community programs are popping up everywhere in response to needs. One recent example has to do with the national crisis of gun violence. After the mass shooting tragedy in Parkland, Florida, comfort dogs were sent to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School to help students deal with the emotions of coming back to school.

Senior centers, nursing homes, and assisted living communities across the globe have active programs where dogs, cats, and others enrich lives and enhance well-being.  “Comfort pets” are increasingly being used to help Alzheimer’s patients with anxiety and depression, and animals have long been known to (and the research continues)  help with reducing blood pressure and heart rate, lowering the stress hormone cortisol, and raising levels of the “feel-good” hormone, serotonin.

Looking at animals making an impact on wellness as a whole, the types of species used for comfort and companionship are pretty incredible. These include rabbits, birds, guinea pigs, miniature pigs, llamas, donkeys, and mini-horses. Oh, my!

A Focus on Horse Therapy

The fascination for horses is common for a good reason. These beautiful, smart animals can forge symbiotic relationships with humans, helping a wide variety of people through challenges and life circumstances.

Horse therapy or equine assisted activities and therapies (EAAT), involves a variety of activities depending on the needs of the individual. Therapeutic riding centers have programs for veterans with PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury, helping with both physical and emotional well-being. Children and adults with disabilities can also enjoy the experience and improve quality of life through strengthening muscles and coordination, building confidence, reducing anxiety, and improving sensory and motor skills.

In addition, certain residential addiction and mental health programs are offering horse therapy as part of their comprehensive activities — creating a strong bond with the horses, with many people feeling a sense of calmness and support; and being more in control of their feelings after riding, taking care of the horses, and other activities. 

Embracing the Furriness — and the Possibilities

Robust wellness is all about diversity. Incorporating highly-trained animals such as service dogs and horses at therapeutic riding centers is a solid decision that can change lives in a drastic way. But even in less formal circumstances as well as the utilization of CSAs — there can be so much gained by trying something new in your wellness routine. It’s a big responsibility to take full care of one of these animals, but you don’t have to take that big step first. Think about taking advantage of community programs and dedicated animal therapists.  Broadening your horizons and opening your arms to a bundle of furry love can offer health improvements for your body and mind. Ready to cuddle?

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