Monday, May 6, 2013

Pet Therapy

Thanks to Chris Marshall for her program about pet therapy.

Vickie Banks (L) and Chris Marshall (R)

Cathy Greiner (left), Unidentified Rotarian (right)

In the institutionalized elderly, there is evidence that pet therapy may:
  • Reduce depression and blood pressure
  • Reduce irritability
  • Reduce agitation
  • Increase social interaction
In Alzheimer’s disease there is evidence that the presence of a companion animal may increase social behaviors such as smiles, laughs, looks, leans, touches, verbalizations, name-calling, or others.

Dogs provide an invaluable service by helping the handicapped become independent. There is a huge demand for these animals. “All of the working dog organizations across the country cannot meet the demand for service dogs.”

Therapy dogs have many uses:  Assist those in wheelchairs, seizure alert, deaf or hearing impaired, alert diabetics if blood sugar is too high or low…Provide calm for panic attacks, PTSD, leading the blind, autism, psychology issues and so on.

Cats are a favorite because they require little care and they can often provide companionship, playful humor and affection for lonely people.

Studies have shown that the comforting vibration of a cat’s purr has significant therapeutic value, such as releasing anxiety and tension and lowering high blood pressure. Various research has also indicated that it helps to reduce inflammation and pain while strengthening and healing bones.

Any dog or cat can be a therapy dog or cat, depending on its temperament and training.  Therapy Dogs International and Delta are two  certifications that can be found locally.  Certain cat breeds, such as Ragdoll cats, have great temperaments for therapy participation, though many cats can be appropriate.

Equine assisted therapy has helped with such things as anxiety, depression, addictions, trauma, withdrawal, relationship issues, learning difficulties, PTSD, eating disorders, autism, psychological abuse, etc. in a powerful, nonthreatening and nonjudgmental way.

It has been found that handicapped children, regardless of disability, learn as much as four times faster and with greater retention after interacting with dolphins.  Many children are able to signal enjoyment, talk, or overcome fear for the first time after therapy.

Therapy animals can often provide much needed comfort and compassion to patients in fearful, life threatening situations. Animal therapy often works best in pediatrics and with the elderly.

A program called “Healing Species” has been bringing rescued animals into the classroom to help kids learn.  Outside study showed huge benefits with more empathy, less aggressive behavior, better performance, and compassion training.

Animals have often been able to reach severely withdrawn autistic children. 

Dr. Temple Grandin is a world famous author and speaker who ‘is known for her extraordinary understanding of the animal mind’, especially cows.

For Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), "medication works 50 percent of the time.  Talk therapy, alone, works 30 percent of the time, and dogs work 84.5% of the time…”  Dogs provide a sense of protection along with affection, help with nightmares, panic attacks, anger management, feelings of separation, etc. 

At Halcyon House

Susan Griffith brings her pet therapy dog, “Griff” every Friday at 3:30 from their home in Iowa City.  Griff is well-known at Halcyon House and has many friends who look forward to his weekly visits.

Jake is our housecat in Avalon House (nursing facility).  He was given to us my Keota veterinarian Dr. Jim Branstad, when Jake was a ‘teenager’ a couple of years ago.  Dr. Branstad provides Jake’s food and free care—a great gift.  Jake is well-loved by Halcyon staff and residents.  Jake wears a “Petsafe” collar, which enables us to keep him from rooms he should not enter!

Sophie and Sadie are our newest pets—they live in Arbor House Assisted Living.  They are ‘Teddy Bear’ puppies—an actual breed that is half Shih Tzu and half Bichon Frise.  They are very loving, gentle dogs—and are now about 8 months old. 


May 9: Emory VanGerpen - Eric Weber, Drug Task Force officer with the Washington Co Sheriff's Dept.

May 16: Kathy Salazar - Iowa Lions Eye Bank
May 23: John Moenck - TBA
May 30: Dick Colby - TBA