Let’s start with a truce: cats and dogs (and birds, fish, and guinea pigs) are all equally awesome, especially when it comes to aphasia.
The Research on Dogs
The American Heart Association recently published a study about dog ownership and survival after a cardiovascular event. The researchers “found evidence of an association of dog ownership with a better outcome after a major cardiovascular event.” And while dogs were the focus of that study, all pet ownership comes with increased physical activity, social support, companionship, and motivation. Sure, dogs pair nicely with walks, but all pets give people a focus beyond their own situation and provide comfort and company in the home.
All Pets Count
Tactus Therapy did a post a few years ago about this phenomenon:
Psychological support is essential for patients with aphasia. A majority of people who have aphasia experience depression, which makes emotional support all the more important. Sometimes, this type of support fails to come from humans and can only be offered by a pet – a living being that also lacks verbal communication skills. These animals, especially dogs and cats, need no words to provide their handlers with unconditional love and mental support.
Moreover, The Learning Corp also tied in pet ownership to aphasia care:
Interacting with a pet has been linked to lower blood pressure, increased exercise, and stronger immune systems. Pet owners tend to be less lonely, have higher self-esteem, be more extroverted, and harbor less fear about getting close to other people. For those in recovery from brain injury or stroke, an animal can boost recovery efforts.
Beyond the family pet, some people use service animals to help them with tasks following a stroke or engage with therapy animals via their speech clinic.
Psychology Today published a study about therapy dogs and aphasia. Researchers found “that the presence of the dog does have the potential to stimulate both overt social-verbal and social-nonverbal communication.” Dogs (and many other animals) are empathetic listeners, paying attention to all words and even providing head tilts or small sounds to indicate that they are trying to follow the conversation. They found people with aphasia particularly comfortable conversing with dogs because animals provide a judgment-free zone. A dog doesn’t care if you can’t remember a word or stumble over pronunciations.
We’d love to hear about YOUR pets. Do you find it easier to talk to an animal than another human? We’d love to hear stories about your furry (or winged or scaly!) friends.
Image: Photo by Joe Caione on Unsplash