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The Science Behind Our Beloved Therapy Animals


What is it that causes more than half the US population to have pets, and over 70% of them to think of pets as part of the family? 


Oxytocin: The Love Drug


Oxytocin, a naturally occurring chemical in our bodies, is called the ‘love drug’, or the bonding hormone.... and it’s one of several chemicals that is positively affected when we’re with our pets, or with a therapy pet. In the case of oxytocin, the levels increase in a BIG way... in both people and animals. Even a brief amount of time with companion and therapy animals can positively impact the way we think and the way we feel; helping us to be more relaxed, at peace, and grounded.


And thus, some very special therapy animals spend time at Horizon's inpatient hospice unit to:

  • - Help create a more peaceful, home-like environment
  • - Improve people’s physical comfort and even decrease their pain
  • - Provide a pleasant, calming sensation as people pet them
  • - Improve people’s sense of overall well-being
  • - Provide a positive topic of conversation and spark fond memories
  • - Offer nonjudgmental companionship and connection
  • - Provide emotional and social support and comfort
  • - Provide a healthy distraction from disease or illness
  • - Offer an outlet for expressions of joy, sadness and love
  • - Provide spontaneity, entertainment and laughter

These benefits can be yours, whether you meet one of our therapy animals on the hospice unit, or spend time playing with or stroking your own feline or canine love. So if you see us while we’re on duty, be sure to say “hi”. We are there to support you and your loved ones in your journey.

Get to know the therapy dogs and cat that visit the Horizon inpatient unit here: Horizon Therapy Animal Teams.



About The Author:


Laura Hey is a Certified Animal-Assisted Specialist, Founder of Health Heelers Inc.

She designs Animal-Assisted Therapy programs and trains therapy animals and their handlers. Laura designed and manages the therapy animal program at Horizon.


"Like many of you, I grew up with dogs. 


Scampy was a Springer spaniel mix and resembles my current dog Jasper so much, that I nicknamed Jasper, Scamper. Scampy was my best friend during my most impressionable years - between the ages of 3 until about 17. Bigby followed. He was so huge people thought that he must be part bear! A shaggy stray when he found us, we assumed he was a mutt; though today I’m almost certain that he was likely a Briard.  I connected with and loved Scampy and Bigby so much. But it wasn’t until I was 18 that I fell in love with my first cat. I’d believed the myths that cats aren’t very social and aren’t high on the ‘personality’ index. Boy did I learn fast how wrong I was! I haven’t been without a cat since."

About this Post

Written By

Laura Hey

Health Healer

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