August 24, 2016

The Benefits of Pet Companions for Disabled People

benefits of pets for the disabled

Nearly a third of all households in the US have pets, and in most of them the furry companions are considered members of the family. But cats and dogs can provide much more than soft bellies for petting and a warm little body to snuggle against in bed. The health and therapeutic benefits of pet ownership are widely known, and disabled people in particular have experienced a profound boost in their overall health and quality of life with a loyal pet at their side.

Here are a few reasons why:

Physical Benefits

Studies have shown that pet ownership is related to lower blood pressure, improved cardiovascular health and diminished physical pain, and people involved in physical therapy report animal companionship increases joint movement and motor skills. Pets also increase fitness levels by providing stimulus for exercise, and the act of petting an animal has been proven to produce an automatic relaxation response, releasing endorphins that have a calming effect.

Mental Benefits

It’s no surprise that having a furry friend nearby can lift spirits and reduce loneliness, but pet ownership is also linked to a decrease in aggressive behaviors and feelings of depression, boredom, and anxiety. Pets are also linked with a decrease in the stress hormone cortisol, and people with temporary disabilities have said pets inspire motivation to recover faster—meaning you’ll won’t need that rollator or knee scooter for long.

Social Benefits

Pets are known to improve independence, confidence, motivation, and self-esteem in disabled people, and they provide a talking point to increase social interaction for those who feel isolated by their disability. Pet ownership can also reduce reliance on human care providers—even for people using at-home hospital beds—lowering stress and increasing confidence in a positive feedback loop.

Care Benefits

Beyond the typical dog or cat, some animals can be trained as professional helpers, providing a wide range of assistance for disabled people. On one end of the spectrum, dogs can pull wheelchairs and perform everyday tasks such as opening and closing doors, picking up dropped items, pressing buttons and switches, and even help with

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