17 Benefits of Therapy Dogs for the Elderly

Therapy Dogs for the Elderly

17 Benefits of Therapy Dogs for the Elderly

It’s common knowledge and proven scientifically that interaction with dogs and pets provide numerous benefits to their owners. Therapy dogs can benefit seniors in both expected and unexpected ways. 



Therapy dogs are being increasingly used as a fairly new form of treatment that is gaining traction in the healthcare field. Once known mainly as a holistic approach to health and wellness, dog therapy has become recognized more as a popular and conventional approach to care. Components of dog therapy can be seen on college campuses, hospitals, and even airports around the globe.  

Dog therapy is intended to offer support for happiness and comfort. Recipients are often afflicted with illness, experiencing stress and anxiety, or battling depression. Often, the dogs and associated therapy programs are misunderstood.  

Types of therapy dogs

Therapy dogs can be trained to fill different capacities and needs. As a result, there are a variety of therapy dogs tailored to be suited for the individualized needs of each person. 

  • Facility therapy dogs: They are in charge of helping seniors and dementia patients. 
  • Therapeutic visitation dogs: these are everyday animals that visit different settings like retirement and senior living facilities, hospitals, and rehabilitation settings. 
  • Animal assisted therapy dogs: They help individuals in rehab facilities regain motor skills. 


Advantages of therapy dogs for older adults

We’ve identified 17 benefits of using therapy dogs for older adults

  • Reduce social isolation and loneliness: Social isolation is a major concern for seniors of all types. Older adults that face long-term hospitalization, disability, and chronic disease are more prone to feeling alienated and alone. Pet therapy can provide important emotional connections and interactions for those less likely to receive regular social activity.


  • Aid in improving speech disorders: Seniors and individuals with dysarthria can benefit from therapy dogs. Dysarthria is a condition where muscles you use for speech are weak or in which you have difficulty controlling them. Dysarthria can be characterized by slurred or slow speech that can be difficult to understand. 


Dysarthria can be seen more in seniors because it has common causes from nervous system (neurological) disorders like stroke, brain injury, brain tumors, or conditions causing facial paralysis or throat or tongue muscle weakness. Certain medications also can cause it. Therapy dogs can help with this by increasing the attention span and improving coordination and make therapy more fun than other therapy methods.

  • Anxiety relief: Seniors with anxiety-related mental health issues can gain significant benefit from having a specially trained service dog. Therapy dogs can help older adults suffering from disorders such as anxiety and other behavioral disorders. When we touch dogs, it provides healing powers because hormones like dopamine and beta-endorphin are released, according to studies


  • Lower stress: Cortisol is a hormone associated with stress in the body. Therapy dogs can help lower levels of cortisol. At the same time, they may increase serotonin, which is a chemical associated with well-being.


  • Aid fine motor skills and improve recovery times: Interacting with animals releases crucial hormones and neurotransmitters in the brain generally related to the emotional bonds between them. This promotes proper body function and rebuilds strength.


  • Support with dementia: Dementia is most prevalent as adults age and get older. The effects of dementia can be detrimental to seniors and make it very challenging on family caregivers. Therapy dogs can provide a calming effect and improve the mood for those with dementia and related diseases like Alzheimer’s. This is powerful because of the tendency for seniors with dementia to be easily agitated and disturbed.

Philly Seniors

Therapy dogs can also provide support by assisting with certain tasks. Tasks may include retrieving items, taking walks with their owners, and providing support for seniors both mentally and physically. Learn about ways to effectively communicate with dementia patients and activities to engage individuals with dementia.

  • Promote communication: Dogs have a unique power to connect with humans. They have evolved to understand human gestures and understand some voices and sounds. Because of this, older adults that have trouble communicating may find it easier to do so with a dog. This is because they have the ability to listen but may not be able to respond. This can provide a unique opportunity for interaction between a pet and its owner.


  • Lower blood pressure: Therapy dogs can help reduce blood pressure while promoting relaxation. This can lessen the chance of cardiovascular disease, closely associated with high blood pressure in seniors. A dog’s sense of touch can facilitate positive connections. This could stem from a sense of warmth between the human and dog. As a result, it can calm an anxious or agitated senior.


  • Help around the house: Therapy dogs can provide direct assistance and promote independent living. They can retrieve medicine for the patient, answer the door, and quickly respond to an emergency if the patient is unresponsive. These dogs are referred to as animal-assisted therapy trained dogs.


  • Boost relaxation and feelings of calm: Pet therapy can be used to foster emotional connections, and tempered levels of stress can add tranquility to a dog owner’s life. The stimulation of senses that are an integral part of dog companionship can promote calmness and relax individuals in different settings. 

  • Promote socialization: Dogs are not just good companions. They can help foster human friendship and social support. This is according to a Harvard study. They are both great in facilitating long-term health and wellness. Plus, the same study demonstrates that individuals with dogs are much more likely to meet new people in their daily lives.


  • Boost mood and lower depression. Pet therapy has been shown to increase levels of oxytocin in the body. Oxytocin can foster well-being, promote happiness, and increase feelings of empathy. Pet therapy is also a used psychotherapy for depression, owing to a variety of contributors including regular companionship.


  • Aid self-esteem and self-worth: The ties created between humans and dogs is one of unconditional love. The responsibility and connection between a dog and its owner also provides a sense of reason and motivation to a senior. This promotes feelings of self worth and value. 


  • Encourage exercise: Owning a therapy dog may increase your inclination to regularly exercise and thus improve your motor skills. Taking an exercise buddy on daily routine walks keeps seniors moving. It helps them meet the minimum recommendations for healthy physical activity. By taking regular walks, it promotes health not only through exercise, but  the outdoor adventures and nature can facilitate happiness. Also, walks provide a sense of accomplishment for the owner and purpose while strengthening bonds between human and animal. Read about more ways to integrate a healthy exercise regimen in seniors

  • Reduce physical pain: Therapy dogs, and in particular animal assisted therapy animals, help release endorphins that can lower perceived pain and stress.This was proven in one study, which even showed that the benefits of therapy dogs can extend to family and friends of the dog owner. 


  • Aid fine motor skills and improve recovery times: Interacting with animals releases crucial hormones and neurotransmitters in the brain generally related to the emotional bonds between them. This promotes proper body function and rebuilds strength.


  • Minimize fatigue: Fatigue is commonly associated as a side effect of various treatments and also different illnesses. Therapy dogs have been shown to reduce fatigue. By keeping patients invigorated, it can promote strength to overcome the challenges of illness and side effects of treatment.  

Having a dog be a part of a senior’s life can help improve their well-being and add new meaning to their life. Because of the substantial health benefits that therapy animals provide, pet therapy is being increasingly utilized as a part of health and well-being promotion. This includes from children to seniors and everything between. Being with animals and dogs helps people feel better, happier, and healthier. Learn about other benefits of seniors having pets at home. 

Therapy dogs come with varying levels of responsibility, so it is important that seniors and loved ones understand the needs of their pets and are up for the task. Luckily, therapy dogs are generally much less intensive in their needs than regular pets.

When therapy dogs and family caregiving aren’t enough, consider home care services to meet your loved one’s needs. Chosen Family Home Care can be the compassionate provider of caregivers and home care to help you or your loved one age in place and with dignity right here in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Follow us on Instagram and Facebook and subscribe to our insights for regular updates and great resources for seniors and disabled adults. 






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