Pets Can Make Caregiving Easier

Pets can ease the burden of caregivers

Dogs, cats and other pets are more than loving, cute companions. Studies have shown that their presence can benefit a person’s physical and mental well-being. Simply being around a pet can help people lower their blood pressure and reduce stress.

Inspiring a Positive Mood

Animals can also help combat loneliness, lessen anxiety and confusion, provide visual and tactile stimulation, and offer overall comfort. People can focus on their pets rather than on their pain. Plus, dogs need to be walked and kittens like to play, so they’re good excuses for getting up and moving around.

One of the reasons for these therapeutic effects is that most pets fulfill the basic human need to touch. Stroking, holding, cuddling or otherwise touching a loving animal can rapidly calm and soothe us when we’re stressed, note the experts at Therapy Dogs International and

Caring for a Pet Enhances Mobility, Optimism, and Opportunities to Socialize

Caregivers and those for whom they care can sometimes feel isolated, lonely and depressed. Caring for an animal, however, can make a person feel needed and wanted, as well as taking the focus away from problems.

Pets are also great listeners. Most owners talk to their pets, sometimes using them to work through troubles and voice concerns.

Great Companions

Pets can also be excellent companions for older people. They help give their owners pleasure, boost morale, inspire optimism, and provide a sense of self-worth. Dog walking can be a great way to start conversations and meet people. Pets also encourage playfulness and laughter – and who couldn’t use more of that?

Research published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health states that several studies suggest that pets can reduce aggression and agitation in Alzheimer’s patients, and can stimulate them to eat more of their meals. Cats or caged animals may be more suitable than dogs for these patients because they require less care.

Just What the Doctor Ordered

When owning a pet isn’t possible, many organizations have volunteers who bring specially trained animals to visit people living in health care facilities. They can be dogs, cats, even rabbits and birds, and residents are invited to pet and stroke the animals.

Therapy dogs have calming temperaments and are trained to provide comfort and companionship when they visit. There are even programs where children practice their reading skills by sitting next to dogs and reading to them. This helps children build self-esteem and offers them the opportunity to become comfortable around dogs.

Share Your Thoughts and Insights With Us

If you have a story about the therapeutic “magic” of animals, we’d love you to share it with us and all our readers. And whether you own a pet, or have animals that visit you, let us know how it has helped improve your life.

Comments (16)

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Steve Sep 12, 2013 8:04am
Impressive Post! thanks
Carolyn Bourne Biggers Jul 17, 2013 3:17pm
Shortly before my mother-in-law, whom I dearly loved, passed away several years ago, I talked my husband into letting me get a rescue dog, a Chihuahua. My mother-in-law loved her, as did my husband and I. About four months after my mother-in-law died, I found my husband dead in bed one morning. I was devastated, and then my mother died as well. My minister, who was a really good friend, moved away, and my grown son and his family moved eight hours away. It felt like the end of the world. Through it all, my little dog sat on the sofa with me and kept her little chin on my leg. She listened to me cry, and she took me on walks that got me out of the house. She truly rescued me, and she really saved my life. I truly don't think I would have survived without her. She gave me something to live for and someone to care for and helped to fill those holes in my heart. I KNOW that a pet, especially a dog, is the best medicine for grief that can be found.
Victry Tellman Jul 17, 2013 8:08am
I am a rescue dog. My owner takes me to a local nursing home once a month. I have so many friends there and they are so glad to see me. On my leash I walk from one to another and they take turns patting me. They like to watch me talk to other people. They think it is nice when I sit and wait for my Mom to say when I can eat my treat which is lying on the floor in front of me. They like it when I roll over on my back for my stomach to be rubbed. That makes me feel good. I am always excited when my Mom takes down the "nursing home tote bag" which contains my special water dish and the leash and a baggie of apple and carrot treats because then I know where we are going. I just sit and wag my tail by the bag until it is time to go. After my visit I come home and have a good run because I feel so good.
Sandra Baker Jul 17, 2013 8:07am
We had to put our beloved pet, Buddy to sleep in October of 2011 after 14 years. My husband had just been diagnosed w/lung cancer. We were very distraught, needless to say...We lost our "baby " and then we were facing the unknown with Cancer. My husband had surgery in December and is still undergoing chemo treatment but is doing very well...Thanks to our new baby "Dixie"...she was a rescue dog but really she has rescued us. She is such a jog and has been my husband's loyal companion...she sees to it that he walks everyday and helps him build strength. Sits calmly on his lap when he does not feel well and has trained him to take her for a ride. Make no mistake, when I come home from work she is very glad to see me and greet me. I do not think my husband would have gotten through some of this chemo had i not been for 'Dixie."I thank the Lord everyday for Dixie....truly a gift from God for the joy,happiness,companionship and love she has brought to us.
Lucy Jul 17, 2013 4:05am
Pets can offer so much for a person dealing with medical stresses and health issues. The companionship, support, love, laughter and bond to just name a few benefits are all priceless. Many years into my personal ordeal, my Golden Retriever died rather unexpectedly. The loss and hole in my spirit felt overwhelming. Good news/bad news: before I was mentally ready I was given from a place of love an 8 week old Golden puppy. She is now 3 years old, however, I would have to admit I am in worse condition because of her. Due to my physical limitations, it has been so hard and exasperating trying to raise a puppy. She did have some professional training, but consistent follow thru on my part was not really possible. I do not have consistent days or abilities of my own. So basically, I have a dog I love very much, but she is smarter than me and a whole lot stronger. I can not walk her on a leash, because if something catches her attention, she'll pull me over. Then it's back to bed for several days. I whole heartily agree with pet therapy. I even discuss with my bundle of furry joy how her breed is super at working with people with disabilities making their lives better. Wouldn't she like to try and enhance my life as opposed to shreading dollar bills taken off the counter, stealing my things, and maybe even coming when I call? So far she has not made a decision on this life plan. Being relentless works for her right now. It unfortunately just exhausts me. My point of all this is yes, a pet can help with loneliness, offer a reason to get up every day and move, allow you to be responsibile to give fresh water and food daily, to have someone who doesn't care if you complain, cry, or just talk, maybe even watch TV with. (My dog definitely likes to control the remote.). But really think what the individual can really offer in pet care - not just what you want them can get out of it. Also research what kind of pet would best meet the person's needs. And can the person be able to meet the pets needs not just occasionally but full time. I don't suggest puppies for someone with limited abilities and fatigue, however, an older shelter dog, might be the perfect match. Also, if you've always had your heart set on a particular breed, there are breed specific rescue groups. Plus call breeders and ask if they have any older dogs. You just might be surprised. And don't forget cats, rabbits, gerbils, fish, ferrets and even reptiles. Just try and make a good match.
Kim Jul 17, 2013 1:01am
My story is with Lucy. My husband & I planed our parenthood very well & were able to bring her home on August 13.2005. Sweet. The day before his birthday. He slept with her all day on the couch her first day home, they were both adorable. That's were my problem began.......she was so little & so precious (Chihuahua) we coddled, cuddled, spoiled, & every other wrong way to raise a obedient well trained dog. Then 4 years later my husband gets cancer & fought it out at home for 14 months. She never left his side in bed on the couch, whatever. She was with him when his soul went to Heaven. So loyal, so patient, so trusting, so much love. Now I have projected all my love for him onto her! She is really, really spoiled now! But I love her to pieces.
connie saylor Jul 16, 2013 11:39pm
hi i have a tabby cat, orange cat named mischief. he is a lot of company for me. since i live alone. he likes to sit in my lap. i like to cuddle him since my 22 yr old son doesnt like to be hugged anymore. and he makes me laugh. he likes to play with the laser light my son uses to play with him. he calms me. he would live on treats if i let him. also since he has kidney disease, he is 10, pets forever come 2xs a week to give him fluids, so he is doing better. love connie
PHIL GARY Jul 16, 2013 8:34pm
Brenda Bowsher Jul 16, 2013 8:34pm
Your article on pets being great companions for people is so true. I have several cats and after my husband walked out of our marriage I felt so alone and rejected. The cats loved me unconditionally and were great listeners too. They were there for me when no one else was. The Lord showed me one day that He sent me the cats so I wouldn't be lonely. Sometimes I feel like I'm running the APL (Animal Protective League) at my place! But then again, I know they need taken care of and loved also. Too many people in this world have not learned how to share their environment with the animals God created and put on this earth. He put them here to help us. A lot of people are abusive and hurt animals; I believe one day they will have to stand before The Lord and give an account of what they did in their lives. Whether that be good or bad. How they treated people and His creation, also animals, they will be judged on. I am thankful for my pets.
Stephen Browning Jul 16, 2013 8:04pm
Please remember that Pet Partners is among the oldest and largest national therapy animal organizations with 11,000 teams providing 1,000,000 visits annually. Check us out at
charlie Jul 16, 2013 7:47pm
I take my blood pressure reading in the morning,( this is before medication.) Sometimes it is 147, my buddy foo- man -chew, my cat, jumps up on my desk and waits for scratches under his chin. As I pet my creature I take a second reading and find it is lowered by about 20 points. After this I take the killer prescription meds and start the day. (Thank the LORD for pets.)
Brenna Finch Jul 16, 2013 7:41pm
I remember that when I came to live at the place I'm still at 10.5 years ago, I had a big fear of any dog, and my caregiver had a toy poodle named Colombo. He was the dog that made me much less afraid of dogs. He made me realize, that there was nothing to be afraid of. Because of him, I've become a dog lover.
Susan Fischer Jul 16, 2013 5:44pm
It's surprising that this seems to be news to you! There are literally tons of information about animal-assisted therapy both on the web and elsewhere. Check out the websites of Therapy Dogs Incorporated, Therapy Dogs International, Pet Partners, and more under links such as "pet therapy" that list local groups. Our "Therapaws of Michigan Inc." has been active for more than 25 years, ,making scheduled visits at all three local hospitals (University of Michigan, St. Joseph's Mercy, and the Veterans Adminstration Medical Center), and in extended care centers. Practically all registered therapy dogs throughout the country carry liability insurance, for which they must pass various tests and assessments. From visits in facilities, schools and libraries to places where disasters have left distrought survivors (for example, Sept. 11, the Newtown tragedy, and many others), you can see therapy dogs at work. Maybe you'd like to start a section where you can give honorable mention to some of these unsung heroes!
Pat D. Jul 16, 2013 5:12pm
Go to, and see how Terry worked with a nursing home facility, using a chicken coup and some pullets for therapy!
Monica Howk Jul 16, 2013 4:21pm
I have a wonderful toy poodle named Taz. When I was pregnant with my first daughter I was put on bed rest due to having toxima for a few months before the end of my pregnancy. So when I found out about being pregnant for the 2nd time I made sure to cut down on salts and anything else that would make me have high blood pressure. My husband thought that a dog would do the trick. I didn't want a puppy to worry about. Even our landlords told my husband you guys need a dog. So Nevada Day weekend we found out about a poodle that had been taken home to live over the weekend with one of the groomers due to no one purchasing him. We went out to Dayton to look at the little guy he was the runt of the group as adorable as can be. We brought him home with us. I said no dogs in our bed first rule. Well after a few hours of trying everything in his crate during the night to have him not whine I finally said bring him in bed with us. Taz has slept there ever since. He sleeps between us. He did help to have my blood pressure stay down. He has been there for every surgery, sickness, cold that little guy is the treasure in our lives. When I had my daughter he would try to get in the room where I was feeding her he was so mad barking at the door until we let him come in to see the baby he wanted to be part of what was going on. When we are sick he is right there with whomever is sick. He is the best nurse ever. He will lay there forever by you on you to make sure that you are okay. In the kitchen he is the best supervisor. When the timer goes off in the kitchen he runs over to it to let us know something is in there take it out. He is a true blessing in our lives. I can't imagine life without him. He is 12 yrs. old and we are seeing him age. I tell him Tazzie Moto you are going to live here with us forever you are the best boy ever.
ralph Jul 16, 2013 3:45pm
all that is so true about being a pet owner. the problem for me is they just don't live long enough and cause such heartbreak when we have to put one to sleep after 12-14 years together