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The Healing Powers Of Fido And Fifi: 3 Benefits Of Using Dogs In The Physical Therapy Setting

One of the most heartwarming developments in physical therapy is the use of companion and assistance dogs to help patients recover. Dogs can assist in various ways, acting as emotional-therapy dogs, PTSD-assistance canines and seeing-eye dogs.

Today, these furry friends are helping injured and post-surgical patients who are undergoing exercise and range-of-motion treatments for their recovery.

Here are some of the benefits to patients:

The smallest patients may be less fearful with a pup around

Young children often become apprehensive or terrified in the strange therapeutic environment of a rehab center with all of its weird machines and other equipment. This is especially true if a child has undergone other painful or frightening procedures in a medical setting.

Seeing a happy, tail-wagging dog as they enter the rehab facility instantly puts many children at ease. Very small children can learn to pull themselves up to stand next to dogs, use their arms in range-of-motion therapy as they pet dogs, and learn to scoot and crawl in order to go to their favorite therapy dogs.

Pets can help stroke patients recover faster

One study discovered that patients who had suffered a stroke learned to walk 35 percent faster when they worked with companion animals rather than human therapists alone. Stroke patients also walked up to 35 percent farther when assisted by their therapy pets than they did with their human helpers.

The sooner any stroke patient gets up and moving, the sooner they can become more self-sufficient, so having those furry inspirations can make a huge difference in a stroke patient's recovery. This faster progress helps the patient gain confidence, which is a key to working through physical therapy exercises.

Dogs inspire humans to try harder

Occupational therapists and physical therapists have noticed that patients spend more time working on their exercises when dogs are present in the room. The dogs have a calming affect, and some patients enjoy spending time with the dogs so much, they work through their exercises with more commitment and for longer periods of time in order to be near their new animal friends.

Dogs can also help patients with Alzheimer's, autism, and other cognitive impairments learn to relax so they can achieve their goals with less stress and anxiety. With a friendly pup to lend encouragement and love, the most nervous and wary patients often learn to let down their guard and view their rehabilitation in a new light. Patients begin to look forward to their physical therapy sessions rather than dreading them.

Ask your physical therapist about other benefits of pet therapy, and discover the many ways companion animals can help you or your loved ones feel less lonely and more inspired to work toward healing goals.