Benefits of a Therapy Dog Post Stroke

There are several different types of strokes, each affecting the brain in different ways. They can affect the right or left side of the brain, as well as the brain stem. Each kind will require its own set of therapies, treatments and long-term outlook for recovery. But, regardless of the type of stroke one has suffered AND survived, it has been shown that pet therapy dogs can have a dramatic positive influence on stroke victims. The amount of information that is available for stroke victims and caregivers is vast. Learning how to communicate and provide the best therapy aids will make the recovery process that much faster.

Left Brain- Strokes that affect the left side of the brain typically results in paralysis of the right side of the body, leaving the person with communication problems, otherwise known as Aphasia. Therapy animals can be quite useful with those suffering from Aphasia; any type of communication that the patient is able to use—even brief commands or hand gestures can allow the stroke victim get their point across to the therapy animal. And because Aphasia often leaves the patient feeling depressed, non-judgmental support and unconditional love can improve one’s emotional well-being.

Right Brain-When someone has suffered a stroke on the right side of the brain, the left side can be left paralyzed. In additions, changes in or loss of vision and memory and changes in behavior can also be result of this type of stroke. Therapy dogs or even one’s own dog can help with cognitive recovery—remembering commands and the pet’s name, as well as getting out to walk the dog can help for faster recovery- both physically and emotionally. Since the paralysis can make getting in and out of bed a challenge, knowing that the pet has to be tended to can create a sense of purpose for the patient.

Keep in mind that there are several types of therapy dogs—

Emotional Support Animal—these animals provide emotional support and unconditional love to the patient

Therapy Dogs—this type of dog actually helps with the physical rehabilitation of the patient. They can assist the patient with balance and strength training exercises

Service Animal—also referred to as assistance dogs, help people with some type of disability—stroke victims often suffer from visual or mobility impairment.

“A small pet animal” as an “excellent companion for the sick.”–Florence Nightingale