How pets help people with depression

Pets can help people with depressionEvery animal lover and pet owner understands the bond that is created when a furry friend enters their life. Many people consider their pets part of their family, and spare no expense making sure the animals are happy and healthy. That’s where veterinarians, vet techs and veterinary assistants come in. They are the trusted advisors when it comes to pet safety and health. Veterinarians and veterinary assistants can counsel pet owners on how to train, feed and bathe their pets. Veterinary assistants play an important role in a vet’s office. They are the caretakers who look after and care for the animals’ well-being. They perform routine tasks under the supervision of veterinarians, scientists and veterinary technicians. In addition, they are often the first point of contact for pet owners when they come into the office, and can be there to comfort them if a pet is ill or passes away.1

But veterinarians can get involved with animal lovers in different ways too. Many veterinarians participate in outreach programs that bring pets into places where people may be suffering from depression or other illnesses, like nursing homes or rehabilitation centers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the company of a pet can help people who are living with depression. Animals tend to offer unlimited affection and companionship, lift spirits and lower stress. Companion animals can also counteract symptoms such as isolation, rumination and lethargy.2

Job market for veterinarians is growing

So how does the role of a pet in the life of a person with depression affect veterinarians? As more studies are conducted on the benefits of owning a pet and more people adopt them, vets will be in high demand to care of those furry friends. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for veterinarians is expected to increase 12 percent between 2012 and 2022, which is faster than the average for all other occupations.1 With more information about how to keep pets healthy being advertised, owners are predicted to bring their pets into the vet more often. Also, new technology has lead to the creation of procedures that only veterinary technologists can perform, meaning the employment for those professionals will increase in that 10-year time period as well. Veterinary medicine has advanced considerably, and many of the services offered today are comparable to health care for humans, including cancer treatments and kidney transplants.1

How pets help people suffering from depression

According to Alan Beck, the director of the Center for the Human-Animal Bond at Purdue University, “All people report feeling less lonely in the presence of animals – even birds. Animals are good for everyone, but particularly for anxious and depressed people. For one thing, pets keep us anchored in the present and distract us from negative or anxious thoughts.”3

Studies have shown that pets help people who are anxious or depressed focus on the present, because they have to pay attention to the care of their pet. Caring for another living creature improves their sense purpose and creates a feeling of being needed. One such study was conducted by Jennifer P. Wisdom, PhD, an associate professor of clinical psychology at Columbia University Medical Center and a research scientist at the New York State Psychiatric Institute.3 Wisdom and her colleagues surveyed 177 individuals with mental illness to explore what factors affect recovery from their health problems. The researchers found that companion animals not only boost self-esteem, but also provide empathy, initiate social encounters, and serve as substitute or additional family members.3

A relationship with an animal requires a different method of communicating, and for people who are anxious or depressed, that is often a preferred way to interact. Pet owners use touch, eye contact and other nonverbal means to communicate with animals. A cat’s purr or a dog greeting them at the door is a form of affection pets can show to their owners that works wonders to comfort them.
Some people who suffer from depression or anxiety self-isolate, but having a dog with them can be an ice breaker. In a study that was conducted in 2000 by researchers at the University of Warwick in Coventry, England, 65 strangers stopped to speak with a man or woman out walking a dog, while only three people stopped to talk to that same person walking alone. This indicated to the researchers that having a dog can help people with social anxiety get out into the world and meet new people.3

Veterinarians can help prolong the animal-human relationship

Research like the studies discussed here only further proves how important the roles of veterinarians, veterinary assistants and veterinary technicians are. Students enrolled in veterinary technology programs or who are otherwise interested in this field can look forward to the opportunity to work in environments like veterinary hospitals and clinics, emergency and specialty hospitals, animal shelters, and pharmaceutical and supply distribution facilities. Veterinarians become a friend not only to the pets they care for, but to the animal lovers who rely on their pets every day for the unconditional love they receive.

1 “Veterinarians,” Bureau of Labor Statistics.gov, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/veterinarians.htm#tab-6
2 “Pets and Healthy People,” CDC.gov, Jan. 21, 2014, http://www.cdc.gov/features/healthypets/
3 Jackel, Donna,  “The Power of Pets,” Hope to Cope.com, https://www.hopetocope.com/Item.aspx/656/the-power-of-pets

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