Updated: Sep 27, 2020
One of the alternative treatment methods recently used, is the animal-assisted complementary to the main therapy which cures and enhances the living conditions of people suffering from chronic diseases or mental disorders. Some of the disorders and illnesses where animal-assisted therapy is included as a complementary treatment are cancer, Alzheimer's disease, dementia, loneliness, anxiety, and depression.
An animal-assisted therapy program called: “A Magic Dream” was implemented in a hospital to assist the hospitalized patients in pediatric oncology sections. 16 parents and children and 12 nurses participated in this program. With the help of dog assisted therapy, the psychological distress in parents and children was reduced whereas the adaptation to the treatment process was easier. Moreover, dogs have a calming effect on the patient’s stress. When the fluency of reading was examined by Melson (2013) in the presence of a friendly dog, not necessarily familiar, the stress decreased and blood pressure dropped. This relaxing effect was found both in the case of adults and in the case of children readers.
Treatment with the help of a horse or hippo-therapy is a method implemented in individuals with mental or physical disabilities. It facilitates the social integration of patients as well as it is beneficial in speech, communicative, social behaviour, and psychomotor problems. In a study by Bass et al 2009, children treated with therapeutic horse riding treatment showed improvements in sensorial search, sensorial sensitivity and social motivation. Moreover, there were observed social motivation and decreases in inattention, distraction and hyperactivity.
Significant improvements were noted after hippo-therapy was used in children with cerebral palsy. Children’s walking, running, and jumping scores as well as total scores were significantly improved.
The effects of colourful birds on old people is another study focused on animal-assisted therapy. Five groups of retired people participated in this study. Two of the groups were given bougainvillaea (plant) and were without a television; the third and fourth groups were given budgerigars (small birds) and the fifth group was used as a control group. A noticeable difference was observed in the budgerigar groups after a period of five months.
Assisted animal therapies have been a focus of interest and have been preserved as a complementary and supportive method in certain therapies to improve health and life quality. A significant number of studies prove their positive effects and results. Therefore, realizing more detailed and longitudinal studies on animal-assisted therapy and increasing the animal species used in the treatment, will help in implementing this technique worldwide.