Frequently Asked Questions About Animal-Assisted Therapy

Many of the animals have become domesticated through the years. Dogs, cats, birds, horses, and others began living with humans as pets. Through this human-animal relationship, science got the idea to use them as a part of therapy. Therapy is a useful medical practice to treat both physical and mental health conditions.

The animal kingdom has shown a lot of significant contributions to society and our history. Many animals had already inhabited the planet long before men even existed.

Science believes humans diverged from a common ancestor with a particular species of animals. Over the centuries, humankind has evolved alongside animals.

Animals have served plenty of purposes, both for the environment and for the people. They are an essential part of the ecosystem and play a vital role in the world’s ecological balance.

From food, clothing, medicine, and even as a means of transportation, they have become the resources for almost everything. They provide security and companionship.

In some religions and cultures, they are even considered holy and sacred. Now, they can even help with therapies.


The utilization of animals in the medical field has been around since the Middle Ages. Ancient Greeks and Romans have discovered the benefits of animal interactions. Studies observed that animals could provide comfort and relief for many ill patients.

In fact, they aid in fast recovery. Since then, researchers have continually developed various treatment approaches using animals. It took many decades of studies, but by the 1960s, they coined the term animal-assisted therapy.

Below, you will find a few of the frequently asked questions regarding animal-assisted therapy.

What does an animal-assisted therapist do?

An animal-assisted therapist works with therapy animals in a myriad of settings. They provide their service in hospitals, private homes, and nursing homes, among others. Together with therapy animals, they typically help clients deal with conditions such as anxiety, PTSD and improving self-esteem and social skills.

Animal-assisted therapists can provide help and support to children with behavior problems and the elderly suffering from dementia.

What conditions disorders does animal-assisted therapy treat?

Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) can be integrated into the treatment plan for physical and mental health conditions. The therapy is specifically helpful for depression, anxiety, cardiovascular diseases, epilepsy, ADHD, PTSD, and ASD.

How effective is animal-assisted therapy?

Studies have shown that animal-assisted therapy can lower blood pressure and cortisol, our body’s stress hormone. This presence of therapy animals has also been found to reduce anxiety and elevate mood.

AAT sessions are particularly useful for children who are resistant to therapy. Furthermore, it also boosts mental stimulation for people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

 When was animal-assisted therapy first used?

The history of animal-assisted therapy goes as far back as 600 BC. Early Greeks used the presence of horses to raise the spirits of ill patients. By the 1600s, doctors had started using horses for improving both the mental and physical health of patients.

It was not until the 1960s that formal research in animal-assisted therapy started, led by Dr. Boris Levinson. He found that dogs’ presence in therapeutic settings positively affected young patients with mental impairments.

 What are the highest paying jobs working with animals?

The highest paying jobs involving animals are typically related to research, training, and direct care. It includes animal trainer, zookeeper, veterinarian, veterinary assistant and technician, animal control officer, animal nutritionist, and animal biologists.

 Can any animal be a therapy animal?

Therapy animals are common domestic animals such as dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, horses, etc. To qualify as a therapy animal, they must be well-behaved, trained, and have undergone interaction screening with humans and other animals.

How many years does it take to become an animal physical therapist?

To become an animal physical therapist, you have to have a master’s degree, at least. Completing a master’s degree generally takes 2 ½ years. There are also doctoral programs under the field of physical therapy, which typically takes three years.


Who uses animal-assisted therapy?

Animal-assisted therapy is useful for people with mental health disorders, children undergoing medical procedures, and elderly residents in residential facilities. It can also be an integrated program in physical therapy sessions and chemotherapy.

How do I become a pet psychiatrist?

To become a pet psychiatrist, you must first earn your undergraduate degree related to animal behavior, psychology, or biology. It would also be helpful to undergo internships in settings like animal research facilities or animal shelters.

You will then need to take a master’s degree, doctorate, or a degree in Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. Depending on your level of training, you will either get licensure or certification for applied animal behaviorists.

When was the first therapy dog?

The first officially recorded and recognized therapy dog is a Yorkshire Terrier named Smoky. Her therapy dog service began when her owner, a corporal in the U.S. Air Force, got hospitalized from dengue fever.

The nurses at the hospital noticed the positive effect that Smoky had on her owner and other patients. When it was brought to Dr. Charles Mayo of Mayo Clinic’s attention, he permitted Smoky to participate in rounds.

It marked the start of Smoky’s journey as a therapy dog that lasted 12 years after the Second World War.

How do I become an animal-assisted therapist U.K.?

There are no regulated qualifications in the U.K. to become an animal-assisted therapist. However, professionals usually perform the intervention with disciplines such as psychotherapy, occupational therapy, counseling, animal handling, etc.

Higher education courses and training can lead you towards a broader understanding of the field.

How do you train a dog for animal-assisted therapy?

Training a dog to become a therapy dog requires both the handler and the dog’s dedicated work. The initial thing to do is to ensure that the dog is adequately socialized by various people, objects, and places.

You can then start training the dog for behaviors needed for therapy sessions and enroll them in therapy dog class. These classes will involve evaluations that will help the dog pass the test and register as a qualified therapy dog.

What is the difference between a service dog and a therapy dog?

A service dog is trained to perform tasks to support people with disabilities. Their job limits their interaction with other dogs and people to ensure that they’re fulfilling their duty. They are granted protection of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), allowing them to access public spaces.

A therapy dog has training that enables them to provide psychological support to individuals in hospitals or nursing homes. Unlike service dogs, therapy dogs have a more friendly temperament, and they don’t have the ADA privilege.

How can I certify my dog as a therapy dog online?

First, you must ensure that your dog is fully trained to become a therapy dog. It is generally voluntary to obtain a certification or register your dog as a therapy dog.

However, you can acquire I.D. cards or vests from recognized organizations and programs to let people know that they’re on-duty.

What breed of dog is best for depression?

Certain dog breeds are best for handling depression. The top on this list is the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel with its natural affectionate temperament.

Other dog breeds best for depression are Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever, Poodle, Yorkshire Terrier, Pug, and English Bulldog.


Pet therapy is another name for animal-assisted therapy. It certainly has become a popular complementary treatment alongside other forms of psychotherapy. It caters to both physical and psychological disorders.

AAT has dramatically helped many mentally-ill patients become stable and improve their moods. Animals in therapy have also worked with many patients with physical health conditions, such as epilepsy and cancer, to recover.


A lot of people are now also training their pets to assist in the medical field. Dogs are often the animals chosen as healing companions for AAT. Aside from being man’s best friend, dogs possess useful qualities and skills. They can carry out a friendly social interaction with humans, and they are calm and are easy to train.

But still, all animals need to pass a certification program before they can qualify for animal-assisted therapy.

It is great to see how animals and humans co-exist continuously. The bond between these creatures grows stronger and tighter as many years pass. Animals have become our valuable assistants. Their generous contributions to science are something we will always be grateful for.

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