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Adopting a pet enriches anyone’s life with love and positivity. But there are particular situations in which a furry friend can be truly helpful and plant a smile on the face of those in need. It has been scientifically proven that pet therapy adds positive effects to those of conventional drugs and treatments.

The term “pet therapy” was coined by paediatric psychiatrist Boris Levinson, in 1953, after noticing improved mood and increased willingness to face treatment in an autistic boy whose own dog had been following the therapy. Over time, it was demonstrated that this innovative therapeutic system produces beneficial effects that add themselves to those of conventional drugs and treatments.

Pet therapy is currently practiced with several animal species: dogs are at the top of the list, followed by cats, hamsters, rabbits, horses, parrots, fish and, finally, farm animals such as donkeys, goats and cows.

Dogs are the preferred animals for this therapy thanks to their ability to interact intensely with man. More than any other species, dogs can establish an intense and long-lasting relationship with humans. All dog breeds are suitable candidates, but the selected dog must, of course, have certain characteristics and educational traits so that the patient would never be put at risk.

The dog’s personality is crucial. It must be attentive and capable of reacting quickly to external stimuli; it must be obedient and willing, and, most of all, it must be in perfect harmony with the personality of its new human friend, with whom a bond will be created.

In Italy, as well, pet therapy seems to be taking a strong foothold, and year after year, Italian hospitals are arming themselves to provide play/company areas where patients can meet their family pets. We hope these situations become widespread enough to make any hospital stay more serene and pleasant.

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