Animal-Assisted Therapy Research

Animal Assisted Therapy & What Science Says

For Mental Health

  • PAC dog with partner and girl
    The simple act of petting animals releases an automatic relaxation response.
    • Humans interacting with animals have found that petting the animal promoted the release of serotonin, prolactin and oxytocin- all hormones that can play a part in elevating moods.
  • Lowers anxiety and helps people relax.
  • Provides comfort.
  • Reduces loneliness.
  • Increases mental stimulation.
    • Assist in recall of memories and help sequence temporal events in patients with head injuries or chronic diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Can provide an escape or happy distraction.
  • Can act as catalysts in the therapy process.
    • May help break the ice.
    • May reduce the initial resistance that might accompany therapy.

For Physical Health

  • Lowers blood pressure and improves cardiovascular health.
  • Reduces the amount of medications some people need.
  • Breathing slows in those who are anxious.
  • Releases many hormones such as Phenylethylamine which has the same effect as chocolate.
  • Diminishes overall physical pain.
  • Relax more during exercise.
    • Participants were motivated, enjoyed the therapy sessions more, and felt the atmosphere of the session was less stressful during Animal-Assisted therapy.
  • For Children with Autism
    • Many children with autism feel a deep bond with animals and feel that they are able to relate better than humans.
    • Children with autism were engaged in significantly greater use of language as well as social interaction win their therapy sessions that incorporated animals compared to standard therapy sessions without them.