Pets for Pain Relief: Cats and Dogs to the Rescue

For many children, adolescents, teens, and adults managing chronic pain, depression, or anxiety, interactions with domesticated animal companions — dogs, cats, bunnies, birds, and more — increase self-esteem and improve mood, lower blood pressure, and decrease anxiety.

Read the inspirational stories of how several people are reaping the benefits of pet- and animal-assisted therapies in Pain-Free Living’s “Healing Power of Animals” series.

KC and VelvetKC and A Rescue Cat Named Velvet

KC has the chronic pain condition fibromyalgia, which results in chronic fatigue, joint, back, and neck pain. “Working with cats at Broken Tail Rescue helped me stay present, and earning the trust of rescue animals gave me positive, rewarding experiences when those experiences were infrequent.”

Jessi and Andi

Jessi and Andi

Following the sudden loss of a loved one, Jessi found herself in a downward spiral of depression — until the day she adopted an eight-month-old yellow Lab mix from a local shelter.

“I fell in love with Andi instantly,” Jessi recalls. “It was the first time I felt something good happen.”

Andi’s playful spirit helped Jessi heal emotionally, she says. “Having Andi made me want to talk to people and reach out to friends again.”

Today, the pair are inseparable and as active as ever. “Andi loves meeting new people and all she wants to do is play, hike and be outside,” she says.

Jessi’s love of animals goes well beyond her spirited puppy.  She is doing what she loves and working at a local animal shelter. “Andi changed my life, and I love feeling like I have a part in helping change their own lives.”

Julia and TuckerJulia and Tucker

Tucker is a registered therapy dog. He and his owner, Dan, visit Boston Children’s Hospital through the Pawprints Program and have been doing so for more than 10 years.

“Tucker and his owner, Dan, made a huge difference the day after my surgery,” says Julia, a patient at Boston Children’s. “Having Tucker there to distract me during such an overwhelming time made a world of a difference and helped me forget about the pain I was in…. Tucker seemed as if he understood what I was going through.”

Julia says she liked capturing each dog visit with photos. “They help me to not only look back on previous hospital stays with a smile, but they also support me with future hospitalizations in mind.”

Read more inspirational stories in Pain-Free Living’s “Healing Power of Animals” series.

Maureen McCarthy is the editorial director of Pain-Free Living.

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