Also known as Zootherapy, it means a co-therapy that joins traditional care, social and health treatments and interventions, in fact the Pet therapy is never a basic treatment and is not a therapy in itself, but it helps, strengthens traditional therapies and can be used on patients of any age.
People who take the path of pet therapy are suffering from various diseases with the aim of improving the quality of life and of their state of health reevaluating at the same time, the human-animal relationship.
The other purpose of these co-therapies is to integrate with normal therapeutic activities facilitating the approach of the various medical and health professionals and rehabilitation especially if the patient does not show spontaneous collaboration.
The presence of an animal in most cases allows to consolidate the emotional relationship with the patient by encouraging the patient-animal-doctor communication channel and stimulating active participation of the subject.
Pet therapy is seen as a sweet and harmonious operation established between man and nature, bringing great benefits to man. It is often defined as an overall plan for Assisted Interventions with the Animals (IAA).
These interventions work thanks to the bond that is created between a pet and a person (children, old people, sick person etc ...): this is a very complex and delicate harmony that stimulates emotional arousal and encourages openness to new experiences , ways of communicating and new interests.
An animal doesn't judge, doesn't refuse and stimulates smiles, it helps to socialize and improves the sense of self-esteem and above all does not prejudice (in the society we live in, often. These create immense damage to emotional and relational level)
It has been tested that, its company decreases heart rate and anxieties and fears.
Let's jump in the past to explain the evolution of this therapy.
In fact, since prehistoric times, in the medicine of primitive peoples, animals have often played an important therapeutic role.
The first attempt in assisted animal therapy was in the ninth century Gheel, Belgium, where the animals were introduced to cure the disabled persons.
In 1792, the child psychologist William Tuke began to treat his patients, the mentally ill ones, with animals, thinking that they might be an instrument to give greater stability and mental balance and be a genuine support for the recovery of self-control.
In 1859, Florence Nightingale noted that small animals could be used as companions for chronically ill people.
In 1867 in Germany it was founded the Bethel Hospital, where animals of various species were used as part of treatment for recovery of epileptics.
In 1919 the Ministry of Interior of the USA suggested the introduction of dogs as a support to patients with severe depression and schizophrenia following the First World War.
In 1942, the American Red Cross encouraged the soldiers who reported physical and emotional disturbances injuries because of World War II to work with pigs, poultry, horses, but also frogs and dogs.
In 1953, the American psychiatrist Boris Levinson discovered, by chance, the positive action of their dogs on a small autistic patient. In fact, he began the first research to test the therapeutic effectiveness of companion animals used for the recovery of people with severe mental illness.
Levinson affirmed that the presence of a favored pet may help to relax, and the patients involved were more ready to have a dialogue and to cooperate
It was the psychiatrist who coined the definition of pet therapy, that is, through animal therapy, in his book The dog as a co-therapist, published in 1961.
For the first time, Levinson talked about plausible and testable theories explaining the benefits of animal companionship and that he applied in the care of his young patients.
Pet therapy is enhanced by additional studies such as those conducted by spouses Samuel and Elizabeth Corson. The two American psychiatrists adopted the theories of Levinson for the treatment of adults with mental health problems and in 1975 elaborated the pet facilitated therapy by using pets and documenting good results: improved communication skills and expression of emotions and development of 'empathy.
In the same year, two English experts, Mugford, and McComisky, applied pet therapy to old people and studied the effectiveness of animals in foster social relationships between people.
In 1977 however he was a study by Erika Friedmann and scientifically proved that contact with a familiar animal produces some modifications on physical parameters such as pulse and blood pressure, so there is a reduced risk of heart attack and lowering hypertension.
In 1981 "The Delta Society," , was founded in the US. This association was responsible of studying the human-animal interaction and the therapeutic effects related to the company of animals.
The Delta Society has also produced a number of important standards for the practice of this therapy and for the training of dog trainers.
In the current daily life, children are less related to the animal world than ever before, and it is a shame because animals bring a huge emotional richness.