Animal therapy, or pet therapy, is one of the methods in rehabilitation and psychotherapy. Boris Levinson began to seriously develop this direction in 1961: the doctor noticed that the presence of a dog helps to establish contact with a child with autism. It is known that animals help not to be afraid of children who are about to have painful procedures such as injections. Even a small aquarium in the lobby of a clinic or medical center should already slightly muffle fear.
Pet therapy includes two directions. The first is animal-associated therapy itself, that is, actions that are aimed at treatment and assistance: the development of motor skills, recovery from serious illnesses, alleviating the symptoms of mental illness, and establishing contact, taking into account the characteristics. The second is called animal-associated activity, which is a more general work with animals aimed at creating positive emotions in patients. In Russian, there are no complete equivalents to these terms: treatment with animals is called zootherapy or animal-assisted therapy, and certain areas have their own names: hippotherapy (working with horses), dolphin therapy, canistherapy (working with dogs), and felinoteparia (working with cats).
Animals are asked for help in a variety of situations, such as epilepsy, cerebral palsy, and even after a stroke. Pet therapy is used for diseases that are not related to the nervous system, but in which the patient is at increased risk of developing depression due to long-term treatment – for example, for cancer, – or in palliative medicine. As Levinson noted more than half a century ago, animals help to establish communication with people with different neurotic features – for example, autism. And of course, animals are used to treat mental health conditions ranging from depression to PTSD. For specific work with patients, animals that can be trained and trained are best suited: horses, dolphins, dogs, pigs. But fluffy rodents, birds, lizards, and other animals, even donkeys, also help fight diseases.