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Animal Therapy Health Benefits
Ernest H. Rosenbaum, MD and Alexandra Andrews

According to the Centers for Disease Control 1 Most households in the United States have at least one pet. Why do people have pets? There are many reasons.

Pets can decrease your:
- Blood pressure
- Cholesterol levels
- Triglyceride levels
- Feelings of loneliness
Pets can increase your:
- Opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities
- Opportunities for socialization

For cancer survivors animal assisted therapy (AAT) using either service animals or emotional (companion) support animals (ESA) may provide valuable support.

Service animals are individually trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities such as guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling wheelchairs, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, or performing other special tasks. Service animals are working animals, not pets. 2

An emotional support animal is a domesticated pet which provides therapeutic benefit to its owner through companionship and affection. A pet is kept for companionship and enjoyment usually a dog, cat, bird, fish or turtle that is traditionally kept in the home for pleasure rather than commercial or any other purposes.

Both pet ownership and social support are significant predictors of survival, independent of the effects of the other psychosocial factors and physiologic status. Presence of pets has been associated with reduction of stress and blood pressure, coronary artery disease,3 and may reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases including strokes.

Hospital animal visits have demonstrated help in pain control and stress for patients.4 Canine visitation therapy (CVT) improves cardiopulmonary pressures, neurohormone levels, and anxiety in patients hospitalized with heart failure.5

Presented at the 2008 International Stroke Conference, "A decreased risk for death due to myocardial infarction (MI and all cardiovascular diseases [including stroke] was observed among persons with cats. Acquisition of cats as domestic pets may represent a novel strategy for reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases in high-risk individuals."6

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