Isolated or disconnected from society. A study published in the Journal of Gerontological Nursing found that elderly residents in care facilities showed significant improvements in mood and social interactions when involved in pet therapy sessions. The simple act of petting a dog or having a cat sit on one's lap can evoke feelings of happiness, comfort, and companionship.

Reduction in Stress and Anxiety

The presence of animals has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety levels in various settings. The calming effect of animals, combined with their unconditional love, can provide a sense of security and reduce feelings of anxiety. In disability care, where individuals may face daily challenges and frustrations, animal-assisted therapy can offer a peaceful respite. Research indicates that interacting with animals can lower blood pressure, reduce heart rate, and decrease cortisol levels, all indicators of stress reduction.

Encouraging Physical Activity and Rehabilitation

For the elderly and those with physical disabilities, maintaining an active lifestyle is crucial for health. Pets, especially dogs, require regular exercise, which can motivate owners to engage in physical activity as well. Walking a dog or simply playing with a pet can improve cardiovascular health, increase mobility, and encourage participation in physical therapy and rehabilitation exercises. A study in the American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation highlighted the positive effects of incorporating animal-assisted therapy into rehabilitation programs, showing improved motor skills and higher engagement rates among participants.

Therapeutic Benefits and Improved Quality of Life

The therapeutic benefits of pets and animal-assisted therapy extend beyond physical health, impacting overall quality of life. Animals can provide a sense of purpose and responsibility, enhancing feelings of self-worth and autonomy. For individuals facing the challenges of aging or living with disabilities, these feelings can significantly improve their outlook on life. Furthermore, pets can help ease the transition into care facilities, making these environments feel more homely and less institutional.

Heartwarming Stories from Our Community

Local Health Services Australia has witnessed first hand the transformative impact of pet therapy. One touching story involves an elderly gentleman, previously withdrawn and minimally interactive with others, who blossomed into a vibrant community member after regular visits from a therapy dog. His laughter and joy during these visits were infectious, brightening the mood of everyone around.

Another inspiring tale comes from a young woman with a physical disability who found renewed motivation through horseback riding therapy. The bond she formed with her therapy horse not only improved her physical strength but also boosted her confidence and independence.


The benefits of pet therapy in elderly and disability care are manifold, offering emotional comfort, reducing stress, encouraging physical activity, and enhancing overall well-being. As Local Health Services Australia continues to support and expand our pet therapy programs, we remain committed to enriching the lives of those in our care through the healing power of animals. The stories and studies highlighted in this blog underscore the profound positive impact that animals can have, affirming our belief in the power of pet therapy to transform lives.

February 22, 2024 — Seema Mishra