Benefits of Certified Therapy Animals or AAT (Animal-Assisted Therapy)

    Reggie 2014

    • Empathy - identifying with and understanding the feelings and motives of others.
    • Outward focus - bringing individuals out of themselves; animals can help individuals with mental illness or low self-esteem focus on their environment.
    • Nurturing - promoting growth and development.
    • Rapport - building a relationship of mutual trust or a feeling of connection or bonding.
    • Acceptance - favorable reception or approval; an animal's acceptance is nonjudgmental, forgiving and unconditional.
    • Entertainment - giving pleasure through engaging activity; even people who don't like animals often enjoy the antics and reactions of our pets.
    • Socialization - enjoying the company of others; studies have shown that when animals visit a facility, there is more laughter and interaction among residents than any other therapy or entertainment time.
    • Mental stimulation - the presence of animals in institutions serves to brighten the atmosphere, increasing amusement, laughter and play.
    • Physical contact - touch; for some people, touch from another person is not acceptable, but the warm, furry touch of an animal is.
    • Physiological benefits - positive effects on the basic functioning of the body; many people are able to relax, showing a decrease in heart rate and blood pressure, when animals are present.


    Research has shown petting an animal can lower cholesterol and blood pressure.

    In November 2005, the American Heart Association released the results of an important study showing that 12-minute visits with therapy dogs improved heart and lung function, reduced blood pressure, diminished harmful hormones and decreased anxiety in heart patients.

    Other studies have shown that owning and caring for a dog can reduce stress and lower heart rate and blood pressure.

    For people who are isolated from their families, the love of an animal has many beneficial health effects. Many people in hospitals, hospices, palliative care units, day care centers, special needs schools, psychiatric hospitals, or nursing homes can benefit not only emotionally, but also physically, from regular contact with trained therapy animals.

    Here are some of the ways that pets improve health - for pet owners and those visited regularly by pets, alike:

    • Children who have dogs tend to be more self-reliant, sociable, and less selfish than children without pets.
    • Elderly people with dogs are better able than non-pet-owning elderly people to cope with daily activities.
    • Owning a dog gives isolated people a routine, a sense of purpose, and a sense of fulfillment that helps prevent depression and loneliness.
    • Petting a dog can be relaxing, which is measured by a slower heart rate and a drop in blood pressure.
    • Owning a dog can help reduce the risk of asthma.
    • Dog owners are more likely to survive heart attacks than non-pet owners.
    • The presence of a dog can ease the effects of Alzheimer's disease. 
    • People with dogs have been found to have lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels when compared to people who do not.
Last Modified on August 19, 2015