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What is animal-assisted therapy?

Charles J. Sophy, MD
Adolescent Medicine

Research has validated what every pet owner already knows: interactions with animals can reduce our stress levels and increase our sense of well-being. Anxiety melts away as we stroke our cat or play with the dog. Animals create enormous motivation in people of all ages and can be an integral component in the success of treatments and educational programs. 

 When animals are used for therapeutic purposes the activities are known as Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT). When they are incorporated into teaching and learning activities it is known as Animal Assisted Education (AAE). Animal Assisted Activities (AAA), such as visitations with the elderly or shut-ins, are designed to improve human physical, social, emotional, and cognitive functioning.

Animal-assisted therapy is a type of therapy that uses dogs or other pets to improve the physical and mental health of patients with certain acute or chronic diseases. It is being studied as a way to relieve distress in cancer patients undergoing treatment for pain.

This answer is based on source information from the National Cancer Institute.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.