Animal-assisted therapy, also called animal-assisted therapy, refers to various services that use animals to assist individuals with a particular physical or mental health condition. If you or someone you know is struggling with coping with a physical or mental health condition, or is going through an emotional tough patch, animal-assisted therapy can be helpful. Animal therapy is using animals to provide comfort, emotional support, and therapeutic care for individuals who are experiencing various health issues under a range of circumstances. The main difference between therapeutic animals and service animals is that therapy animals provide emotional support, whereas service animals provide assistance to disabled individuals through performing a specified task. Emotional support animals are pets who are not specifically trained, but who do indeed provide emotional support for their owners. Service animals are trained to provide a particular service for a person with disabilities, such as autism, blindness, epilepsy, or impaired hearing. Therapy animals visit people in medical facilities, but they are not owned by any single patient or specially trained for assistance. Although often registered in the NSAR , therapy pets are not service animals. Therapy pets are animals who visit hospitals, senior living centers, hospice centers, nursing homes, and schools. These therapy pets usually live in a facility, are trained to watch over and engage patients who have Alzheimers or other mental illnesses. Therapy pets are a resource in healthcare, with a vital role in helping children and adults with various physical and mental problems. Some long-term care facilities may offer animal-assisted therapy programs, which can help to enhance mood and overall wellbeing for those residing at those facilities. Pets may also be helpful in helping people recovering from illnesses in hospitals, assisted living facilities, and other ambulatory settings. Pets may be helpful to facilitate psychological treatments for those suffering from PTSD or other emotional issues. Animal-assisted therapy is commonly used to treat psychological conditions, such as anxiety, depression, sadness, and PTSD, but it may also be used to treat physical conditions as well, as well as emotional components of physical illness. Therapy animals may also be helpful for individuals who have a physical health condition to deal with the emotional and psychological components of these conditions. Animal-assisted therapy may be an excellent way to improve both mental and physical health conditions, their symptoms, general well-being, and quality of life. Overall, the purpose of animal-assisted therapy is to mitigate or assist individuals in managing certain symptoms of different conditions, when possible. Animal assisted therapy is an emerging field which uses dogs or other animals to help people heal or better cope with medical problems, such as heart disease, cancer, and mental health disorders. Animal-assisted therapy involves animals that are specially trained to help physical and occupational therapists work with patients. Most therapeutic animals are dogs, but cats, horses, rabbits, and any species may be used, provided that the cats are well-trained and are compatible with the services provided to those who require services. Depending on the functions of therapy, individuals can choose between various animals, including dogs, horses, and birds. Depending on the animal and the level of comfort, a therapy animal can be petted or held by a patient. Before the animal and handler may engage in animal-assisted therapy, a team must meet specific requirements. The animal and its handler also need to go through training and assessment, which helps to provide a positive experience. Before receiving approval for therapeutic use, both the animal and the handler must go through a variety of certifications from a variety of organizations. A trained handler, usually the owners pet, will bring the animal with them at each session, and will work at your doctors or therapists instructions to help you achieve your goals. Most hospitals and other facilities using animal-assisted therapy have strict policies in place that make sure animals are clean, vaccinated, well-trained, and tested for appropriate behaviors. In addition, therapy pets help patients relearn animal care skills, so that when they go back home, they are equipped to take care of their own pets. People of all ages who have a physical, medical, or emotional issue, be it for the long term or the short term, may benefit from animal-assisted therapy. Therapeutic animal companionship improves the wellbeing of patients by spending time with pets. Volunteering at your local shelter or helping a rescue group or a pet-therapy organization like Pet Partners are ways you can save the lives of pets, and potentially yours. To find out how you can become involved in UnityPoint Health-Des Moines pet therapy volunteer programs for patients and families staying at Iowa Methodist Medical Center, Blank Childrens Hospital, and Iowa Lutheran Hospital, please visit our Pet-Assisted Therapy webpage today. In rehabilitation, individuals can feel more motivated to heal and engage in therapy when working with a pet. Finally, animal-assisted therapy has also been used to produce subjective benefits for patients with severe medical conditions in the ICU, in some cases. There is growing evidence supporting the use of animal-assisted therapy as an additional or complementary treatment to a variety of clinical conditions in primary care and acute care settings1; however, the evidence is limited by the methodology of studies and interpretation. A meta-analysis was conducted on five studies on the use of animal-assisted-activity therapy in treating depression in institutionalized subjects . In another study, forty-five residents from three facilities were divided into those receiving thirty minutes of animal-assisted therapy weekly for one-and-a-half months, receiving the same therapy three times per week, or no therapy. In the control group , subjects watched trained therapy dog pets enter the nursing home, but did not interact with them. The subjects would either walk, play, pet, or handle trained pet therapy dogs, with the trainers supervision. Although the majority of therapy pets are dogs, other species, such as cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, and horses, are also good candidates. Animals can be used to comfort, warn others when someone is in distress, or even take direct actions to help the persons state of mind if needed.