The benefits of pet therapy | Health

Most pet owners are clear about the immediate joys that come with sharing their lives with companion animals. However, many of us remain unaware of the physical and mental health benefits that can also accompany the pleasure of snuggling up to a furry friend. It is only recently that studies have begun to scientifically explore the benefits of the human-animal bond.

Pets, especially dogs and cats, can reduce stress, anxiety and depression, ease loneliness, encourage exercise and fun, and even improve your cardiovascular health.

Tina Hamilton, senior manager of Pet Foods, said that pets, according to several studies, have been shown to reduce cortisol levels, the stress hormone, and positively affect brain function.

“They also raise serotonin and dopamine levels, so they make you feel good and keep you relaxed. We know that sometimes it seems crazy when your puppy chews on your new shoes, but eventually when they look at you with their big eyes, don’t you can’t help but forgive. The unconditional love of animals is incomparable,” Hamilton said.

While it is true that people with pets often experience greater health benefits than those who do not, a pet does not necessarily have to be a dog or a cat.

“I think most people think of dogs as emotional support animals, but you’d be surprised at the number of animals that people talk about. Cats, of course, are high on the list, but people can have meaningful relationships with their rabbits and horses, farm animals such as goats and pigs, and we even had a young man praise his snake for helping him stay calm during study time . . Important to note, I don’t live in Jamaica. I’m not sure how we feel about hugging a snake or a lizard. But I think that whenever you have a connection with animals, they affect you emotionally and, as it turns out, , physiologically as well,” Hamilton said.

Studies have shown that pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression than those without pets. People with pets have lower blood pressure in stressful situations than those without pets. A study also found that when people with borderline hypertension adopted dogs from a shelter, their blood pressure dropped significantly within five months.

“For serious conditions, it is important to get the animal trained in that area of ​​knowledge. But I think that all of us go through life problems sometimes – loneliness, depression – just need comfort. I see where animals can help. And if you don’t have one for yourself, you can surround yourself with animals and you will see how quickly your mood can change,” said Hamilton.

One of the reasons for the therapeutic effects is that pets fulfill the basic human need for touch. Petting, hugging, or otherwise touching a loving animal can quickly calm and soothe you when you’re stressed or anxious. The company of a pet can also ease loneliness, and most dogs are a great stimulus for healthy exercise, which can substantially boost your mood and ease depression.

“The last few years have been difficult for all of us. I know that animal shelters in Jamaica have seen an increase in adoption during the years of the pandemic. I always urge people, however, to understand the responsibility of having a pet. Although they come with many benefits, they need full-time proper care,” said Hamilton.

Puppy therapy sessions hosted by True Pet Food have helped people in the workplace to be calm, reduce stress and anxiety, and certainly bring out smiles and laughter.

“During COVID we all felt a little isolated. I realized that people in my office were feeling down and decided to bring some puppies one day to help cheer them up. It worked. In fact, it worked so well that they asked for this to be a weekly activity. Obviously, we couldn’t do that, but word got out and people from other companies started asking about what they considered puppy therapy days,” Hamilton said.

The project was meant to last for the pandemic. But then, he was still receiving requests from workplaces and schools of people who wanted to participate. At this point, Hamilton said they are working to make this a permanent service that True Pet provides.

“As usual, dogs are our priority, and we do everything we can to ensure their safety. We work directly with our favorite breeders for this program. We take puppies/dogs from eight weeks to four years old. All must be socialized and have all vaccinations up to date. The play area is cleaned before and after their visit, and all human hands are washed and sanitized before they are allowed to hold the dogs. For smaller puppies, participants wear gloves to hold. We don’t mix litters, and there are frequent water and potty breaks between sessions,” Hamilton said.

The feedback, he said, has been very positive. “No participant so far has had a negative experience, including the puppies. They like the attention. We receive pictures sent to us, sometimes several weeks later, who tell us that the memory of the experience makes them happy, or people they message us complaining that they were out that day and begging us to come back so they can have a chance to hug a puppy,” Hamilton said.

“People will be in full offices lying on the floor in high heels, saying that they are exhausted from hard meetings, but dogs make everything better. Children in schools have asked us to allow them to keep puppies during their exams because they help with their anxiety. We also leave little memories with the participants in the form of our therapy posters, which are pictures of our Real Jamaican Dogs with authentic Jamaican sayings. Honestly, we are grateful that we get to spread some joy wherever possible. We’ll keep doing it as long as we can,” Hamilton added.

People interested in having a puppy therapy session can contact @truepetfoods on Instagram or phone 876-4581879. People can also attend the True Pet Expo on November 12 at Hope Zoo, free of charge.

keisha.hill@gleanerjm.com

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