How Pets Can Reduce Stress for Medically Complex Children and Their Caregivers

Many of us have fond memories of growing up with a pet, and while valid reasons exist for not bringing home an animal for your medically complex child, for those who it’s possible, there are just as many wonderful reasons why you should. Animals have a therapeutic effect that comes from the mutual love and affection they provide—reducing stress and uplifting moods for both children and their caregivers. 

Service Dogs

Service and therapy dogs have become increasingly popular with medically complex and special needs children as research shows that they make a positive difference in independence and emotional well-being. While you don’t necessarily need a specially trained animal, their ability to perform certain tasks or handle being in public places may make you more comfortable with the idea of having an animal around. Not only that, they can serve a real protective purpose—alerting you to a medical event like a seizure, learning to pick up dropped items to prevent falls, and providing physical support. 

Emotional Assistance

An animal’s companionship has been shown to lower stress, build up children’s self-esteem, enhance their social skills, and even help manage anxiety and mood-related disorders. While dogs might be the first animal you think of, emotional assistance could also come from other pets, including cats, rabbits, birds, fish, and reptiles like snakes and turtles. There’s even evidence that grooming, riding, and helping take care of horses can help children with cerebral palsy, autism, down syndrome, and vision issues. If taking care of an animal full-time isn’t manageable, you could try finding a shelter or farm that offers animal care services. 

Taking care of an animal, any animal, gives kids purpose as well as hope and something to look forward to. Just the physical interaction between a person and a pet can ease anxiety and loneliness, decrease cortisol levels, and boost mood. 

A Beautiful Connection

The truly beautiful thing about pets is that they offer unconditional love. They actually become attuned to people, their behavior, and their emotions and react accordingly. Dogs and cats, for example, can understand tone and body language. In some cases, certain animals even seem to intuit a need by making eye contact and feeling your child’s pulse. Plus, animals in general live without fear of what’s coming next or what might have happened already—in that way, they can be teachers in mindfulness as well as empathy. While health and safety are paramount for your kids, connection may come in a close second, and they can find that through pets.

Develop Family Bonds

Pets aren’t only great for medically complex kids—they’re great for the whole family, especially siblings of medically complex kids. When everyone has a pet to take care of and play with together, it strengthens your familial bonds. You all suddenly have one constant that you can always relate over, and that’s your love of this animal. Not only does it lead to making good memories, but it teaches responsibility and reliance on one another. It’s not all about the work though! Playtime can actually boost serotonin and dopamine, which work to calm the mind. 

Gus Gear

Our products, like our Central Line Vest, G-Tube Wrap, and Line Covers keep feeding tubes and central lines safe from accidental pulls and breaks. Yes, that includes pulls from pets! Cats in particular seem drawn to tubing, so our Line Covers provide protection from their curiosity. 

If you have questions — contact us today! We sell a product that we’ve designed to give you peace of mind, but at the end of the day, our mission is to build a community of caregivers so you never feel alone.

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