“Happiness is a warm puppy.”  Charles Shultz (cartoonist, Peanuts)

There are so many pet therapy benefits for seniors and home care recipients. It is common knowledge that owning a pet has many physical and mental benefits for people of all ages.  Research shows that it may even have more of a positive impact on seniors and home care recipients, who are homebound or reside in assisted living or nursing homes.  Just 15 minutes of bonding with an animal can set off a chemical reaction in the brain, lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and increasing the feel-good mood hormone serotonin.

In the short term, these changes lead to a lower heart rate, lower blood pressure, and lower stress levels.  Over the long term, the impact of pet therapy may help lower bad cholesterol levels, reduce pain and protect against heart disease and stroke, which leads to better home care outcomes. Pet companionship also boosts mental health by reducing loneliness, and anxiety and promoting feelings of relaxation. The unconditional love of a dog brings healing and meaning to what can be a lonely stage in life.  Family members, friends, and caregivers who sit in on animal visits with seniors also reap the benefits and feel better too.

Many seniors have told us that the visit with a dog “made their day”.  Therapy dog visits bring back memories of beloved dogs that people have owned.  We often hear wonderful stories of people’s experiences with their dogs and how much they meant to them.  In short, the impact that therapy dog visits can have on people is immeasurable.  

What is Certified Pet Therapy?

Pet therapy is a broad term that includes many animal-assisted therapies and other animal-visiting activities.

Animal-assisted therapy is a growing field that uses dogs or other animals to help people recover from or better cope with health problems, such as heart disease, cancer and mental health disorders such as PTSD.

“Service Animal” is a term often used interchangeably with “therapy animal”, but they are completely different.  The official website for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states, “…service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, and alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure…Service animals are working animals, not pets.”

Visitation therapy, on the other hand, has a more general purpose, such as providing comfort, enjoyment, and connection for seniors. For example, Mayo Clinic has a dog therapy program with more than a dozen registered therapy dogs – and their masters – enrolled in the Mayo Clinic Caring Canines program. They make regular visits to hospital departments, and patients and will make a special visit on request. Unlike service animals, therapy animals are not supported under the ADA, meaning that they may not be allowed at certain public venues or in living situations in which there is a no-animal policy.

How to Afford a Service Dog

For more information on how to finance a therapy dog see this helpful link:

Give Amethyst Home Care a call @ (800) 476-7059 if you live around Grand Dunes, Pawleys Island, or Litchfield, within Horry County, and would like to meet with one of our RNs.  If you would like a more comprehensive home safety assessment, you can also call us and one of our Care Coordinators will find the right partner with which to connect you.