Pet Therapy as an Alternative Therapy

Antonia McVeigh by Antonia McVeigh Additional Needs

Antonia McVeigh

Antonia McVeigh

This week I will focus on Pet Therapy. Any feedback, questions and/or input is greatly appreciated!

What is Pet Therapy?

Pet therapy is a guided interaction between an individual and a trained animal. It also involves the animal’s handler.

The purpose of pet therapy is to help a patient recover from or cope with a health problem or a mental disorder.

Pet therapy also is called animal-assisted therapy (AAT). Dogs and cats are the animals most commonly used in pet therapy.

However, fish, guinea pigs, horses, and other animals that meet screening criteria can be used.

The type of animal chosen depends on the therapeutic goals of a patient’s treatment plan.

Who can use it?

Although all Children with Autism will exhibit different behaviours, there are many aspects of their lives that an Autism Assistance Dog can help with.

They are trained to meet the needs of both the child and the parents.

The new companion provides a steadying influence for the child, many of whom have a tendency to run off when scared, especially in strange locations. Our dogs are trained to prevent this.

Find out more about autism and dog therapy at


Pet therapy builds on the pre-existing human-animal bond.

Thanks to this natural relationship, pet therapy can aid progress toward goals in human physical, social, emotional, and cognitive function

(American Veterinary Medical Association, 2013).

Pet therapy can be used in many different ways.

Goals of a pet therapy program can be to: ·

improve fine motor skills · improve assisted or independent movement · increase self-esteem · decrease anxiety or loneliness · increase verbal communication

· develop social skills · increase willingness to join in activities · improve interactions with others · motivate willingness to exercise


Prices for AAT vary depending on what animal you are requesting, however an approximate price is in the range of £125-£500.


Martin and colleagues (2002) found that children exhibited a more playful mood, were more focused, and were more aware of their social environments when in the presence of a therapy dog.

These findings indicate that interaction with dogs may have specific benefits for this population and suggest that animal-assisted therapy(AAT) maybe an appropriate form of therapy.


Martin, F., Farnum, J., 2002. Animal-Assisted Therapy for Children with Pervasive Developmental Disorders. Western Journal of Nursing Research, 24(6), pp. 657-670

If you have any questions relating to Pet Therapy I would be happy to try and answer your questions.


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