Animals have a lot of uses in the daily lives of many people around the world, from nutrition to domesticated pets, in addition to their own roles in their respective ecosystems. More recently, some animals have been utilized and recognized for the positive therapeutic impact they have on different demographics, including young patients with autism, cerebral palsy, severe physical disabilities, and elderly patients suffering from physical ailments plus depression and loneliness. Here are the top 5 therapy animals:
1. HorsesHorses are especially recommended by therapists for people with disabilities because of the wide range of positive benefits from horseback riding. For instance, depending on the disability and personality of the patient, horseback riding may benefit the patient socially, or build core strength and muscle memory. Therapists have noted the psychotherapeutic benefits of horseback riding among at-risk youth and veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, making both groups of patients less aggressive and prone to suicidal thoughts.
2. AlpacasAlpacas are popular for their cute appearance, gentle, and sociable personalities. Those same qualities make them an asset in hospitals. In one Oregon children’s hospital, for instance, an alpaca (as well as the closely-related llama) have been effective in improving patients’ moods and health. However, the benefits of interacting with alpacas is not limited to children, but also includes patients in long-term and assisted-living communities, and physical rehabilitation centers.
3. DogsDogs have long been used for medical purposes and in actual medical facilities. In some cases, retired guide dogs have stayed in the same facilities as child patients undergoing experimental therapies. Interacting with the therapy dogs, such as petting, walking, feeding, and grooming them, has been ineffective in lifting the spirits and speeding the recovery processes and motivations of patients.
4. ElephantsThough not used as commonly as dogs and horses in the United States for animal assisted therapy, elephants are nonetheless a popular choice in places such as Thailand, South Africa, and Jerusalem. Elephants have been used for young patients with cerebral palsy, people with autism, and more recently, as one aspect of drug and alcohol rehabilitation in Thailand. The fundamentally non-aggressive personalities and sheer exoticism of elephants tend to fascinate and motivate patients.
5. RabbitsRabbits are sometimes a realistic alternative to therapy dogs or cats simply because of their comparatively smaller size and fewer requisite responsibilities. Patients who have interacted with therapy rabbits have reportedly become more adept at building relationships and cooperating with others, and autistic child patients have improved their ability to understand physical limitations and interpret social cues.
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