by Jessica Morgan, MD
But in a good way. Our pet therapy dog, Graham, is a vital part of our medical team. Trained and tested, Graham is certified by Pet Partners International to provide pet therapy services including animal-assisted therapy and other animal-assisted activities. Animal-assisted therapy is a growing filed that uses dogs or other animals (even llamas!) to help people recover from or better cope with health problems such as heart disease, cancer, and mental health disorders. Whereas animal-assisted activities have a more general purpose, such as providing comfort and enjoyment for hospitalized patients, nursing home residents, or children visiting the pediatrician’s office.
Animal assisted child therapy and activities can significantly reduce pain, anxiety, depression, and fatigue in people with a range of health problems from children having dental procedures to veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. It’s not only the patient that feels better. Family members and friends who sit in on animal visits say their spirits are lifted as well. We are well aware that visiting the doctor’s office can be a frightening event for some children. Graham is here to help.
It is well-known and scientifically proven that interaction with a gentle friendly pet has significant benefits on physical and mental health:
- lowers blood pressure
- improves cardiovascular health
- releases endorphins (oxytocin) that have a calming effect
- diminishes overall physical pain
- the act of petting produces an automatic relaxation response
- lowers anxiety
- provides comfort
- encourages communication and increases socialization
- reduces boredom
- decreases feelings of isolation and loneliness
- lifts spirits and lessens depression
Bee Well Pediatrics is proud to be the only pediatrician’s office in the Austin, Bee Cave and Lakeway area to have their very own certified pet therapy dog. It is our hope that he makes our patient’s time with us enjoyable and relaxing. (Not normally words used to describe a doctor’s appointment!) Even if you’re not a patient of ours, feel free to stop by and meet Graham. He always appreciates making new friends.