Nurse PeeWee

Pets are such amazing healers.  The birth of modern-day animal assisted therapy happened in 1969 when Boris Levinson, a child psychologist, found that a previously nonverbal child was willing to communicate when his dog was present.  Since then there has been a surge of research around animal assisted therapy and the health benefits of pet ownership.

The health benefits from animals include; companionship, unconditional love, tactile pleasure, lowering stress, distraction from pain and motivating patients to get better. Physiological benefits are also evident. According to multiple studies “pet owners had significantly lower systolic blood pressure and plasma triglycerides than non-pet owners” (Brodie, 1999, p. 331).

One of the biggest factors determining a healing bond between animal and human is motivation.   The interaction with the animal not only lowers stress and is enjoyable, but decreases the clinical nature of hospitalization and reminds the patient that there is a world to return to. “Motivation throughout a patient’s recovery is the driving force that heals” (Connor, 2000, p.22).

The evidence shows that the animal-human bond is beneficial in not only treating people who are ill, but can play a role in preventing illness. Pet ownership is correlated with a “reduction in minor health problems and significant improvements in psychological well-being” (Halm, 2008, p. 375).  These benefits might account for the fact that 60% of US households have at least one pet.

I know from personal experience that when I feel unwell the best nurse around is my Chihuahua PeeWee. Her mere presence makes me feel better.

1.       Brodie S.J., Biley, F.C.  (1999). An exploration of the potential benefits of pet-facilitated therapy. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 8, 329-337.

2.       Connor K., Miller J. (2000). Animal-assisted therapy: An in-depth look. Dimensions of Critical Care Nursing, 19, 20-26.

3.       Halm M. A. (2008). The healing power of the human-animal connection. American Journal of  Critical Care, 17, 373-376.

Published in: on March 17, 2011 at 3:48 pm  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I listen to this fun podcast called ‘The Moth Story Hour’. It’s all live story telling events with everyday people telling their stories on stage without notes. There was a really good one recently from a guy who grew up with a major stuttering problem but gradually gained control of his stutter through firs talking with animals. It’s a great story. The podcast is free, it’s story number 102. He later became a zoologist and started a conservation organization devoted to wild cats.

    • Thank you so much for sharing. What a wonderful story! There is so much we can learn from the animals we share our lives with.

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