Therapy Pets and Alzheimer’s Disease

Therapy Pets and Alzheimer’s Disease


Researchers around the world have long suggested that pets have a positive impact on a person’s health. Pets have been shown to lower a person’s blood pressure and heart rate which reduces the stress hormone cortisol. They also help to increase serotonin levels which we all know is the feel-good hormone.

So doesn’t it make sense that our four legged friends are now common place in Alzheimer’s and Dementia units? Some places are even hiring pet coordinators to assist in the care of the resident’s pets. Let’s face it, dogs and cats love us unconditionally and it has been shown that animals develop special bonds with Alzheimer’s and Dementia patients.

According to “Researchers at the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Nursing have found that dogs can provide Alzheimer’s patients relief from sundown syndrome. The syndrome, which happens in early evening, causes restlessness, confusion, aimless wandering, agitation, and aggressive behavior such as hitting, kicking and biting. Its cause is unknown.

During this sundown time when a person with Alzheimer’s can be most agitated, we have found a dog can be effective in distracting them from that behavior, Dr. Baun said. We found if the dog is present, some patients benefit by appropriately focusing their attention and decrease their need to be agitated. It’s sometimes hard to settle patients down. It’s a benefit to them and staff as well.

Dog’s best suited as therapy dogs are friendly, tame and obedient large dogs such as golden retrievers and must be trained and certified. The dog used in the study was Sadie, a Golden Labrador mix.

Therapy dogs may produce positive effects by inducing relaxation and distracting patients from agitation, according to the research findings. Researchers say the presence of a therapy dog evokes looks, smiles, leans and touching from patients, indicating interest and pleasure with the dog’s appearance.

It matters little to a pet if the person’s body has deteriorated or if the same stories are repeated over and over, Dr. Baun said. All humans need to be touched and to touch others. The therapy dog can provide the missed physical contact through petting, hugging and caring for the dog.”

“Caregiver’s” of patients or family members with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia might consider getting a therapy dog or cat too. The “caregiver” may not get out very often and feel isolated from the world. Having a therapy dog or cat around could have a positive effect on both the “caregiver” and the person with “Alzheimer’s disease.” ( says; There are many resources for folks interested in companion pets. Pet Partners, Pets For the Elderly Foundation, and Therapy Dogs, Inc. are just a few. Many local and regional shelters offer special programs to match seniors with the pet that’s just right for them. If you’re considering going this route, there are many things to consider including whether or not your loved one can care for the pet properly. Be sure to do your homework before making any decisions.

Watching the Food Network with Chewie
Watching the Food Network with Chewie



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