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Pets and your health

Created date

January 25th, 2010
YH0210_HealthandPets
YH0210_HealthandPets

When pet owners tout that animals are good for their health, are they barking up the wrong tree? [caption id="attachment_7547" align="alignright" width="259" caption="(File photo)"]Sedgebrook. But the work that s been done with pets as treatment for dementia patients is fascinating. Dementia, he explains, can be associated with many symptoms among them agitation, wandering, confusion, and aggressive behavior that are challenging to treat. Very strict criteria must be met before you can use pharmacological [drug] treatment for dementia patients, and they are risky medications which carry complications, says Kroger. As a result, some other things are important; pets are one of them. We find they orient a patient, providing consistency and if there s anything that s important in patients with dementia, it s routine. Studies in institutional settings have shown Alzheimer s (dementia) patients were less agitated and more social as a result of interacting with animals on a regular basis. There have also been findings that pets presence in such settings decreased patients anxiety and aggressiveness. These studies were done with visiting pets, but Kroger says some people with dementia can remain pet owners. Clearly, there are many elements of dementia that we see, he explains. Dementia is not just loss of memory; it may be loss of judgment, it can be loss of skills that are sequential the idea of walking down a hallway and finding your way through a hallway, through a door, and finding your way back. It s a sequence of cues. If a person has lost certain skills, then taking a dog out for a walk may be risky. But not every pet requires a lot of care for instance, a cat. Depending on the person s dementia, changing the litter box and putting food and water out may be a skill they can master over time. Kroger emphasizes that creating an environment that feels like home is an important piece of care, saying, The bottom line is, if a person was taking care of a pet before they regressed with their dementia and they can get whatever resources they need to help them care for it, that pet provides a great deal of comfort.

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