The Benefits of animals in treating Post-traumatic stress

4 min read

Post-traumatic shock and stress, known by the acronym PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), represent serious psychological reactions that occur after a traumatic event. These high-intensity situations, such as natural disasters, serious accidents, or violence, can leave lasting imprints on mental health. Symptoms include flashbacks, hyper-vigilance, nightmares, avoidance of situations reminiscent of the event, sleep difficulties, and constant irritability.

In the face of these conditions, conventional therapies like cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy (CBT) and medication can be effective, but new approaches are continuously being studied, including animal-assisted therapy.

Animal-assisted therapy, also known as zoothérapie, is a therapeutic method that involves using animals as an integral part of treatment. It is based on the beneficial presence and contact with animals specially trained to interact safely and comfortingly with individuals experiencing psychological distress.

Types of Animal-Assisted Therapy.

Dog-Assisted therapy: dogs are often used due to their ability to quickly form friendships and respond to human emotions. They are frequently present in hospitals, schools, or during individual sessions with therapists.

Equine therapy: the use of horses is also widespread, particularly in trauma treatment. Physical contact and supervised horseback riding have a significant positive impact on self-esteem and emotional control.

Feline therapy: cats, with their calm behavior and soothing purring, are employed to reduce anxiety and promote relaxation.

Fields of application.

Animal-assisted therapy is used in various contexts: for war veterans suffering from PTSD, victims of criminal acts, or individuals who have experienced disasters. Animals, through their presence, help establish a climate of emotional safety, facilitate communication, and enable the discussion of painful topics in a less intimidating environment.
Animal-assisted therapy is also used with children. Animals, especially dogs and cats, can help reduce their anxiety, promote communication and emotional expression, and even improve social skills. This can be particularly beneficial for children who have experienced traumatic events or those with emotional or behavioral issues.


Animals used for this therapy are carefully selected and trained to be calm, considerate, and responsive to individual needs. During sessions, they act under the direction of a qualified therapist who guides their interactions with the patient.

Benefits measured so far.

Scientific research is beginning to accumulate data on the benefits of animal-assisted therapy. Studies have shown that interaction with animals can reduce cortisol levels, a hormone associated with stress, and increase oxytocin levels, a hormone linked to a sense of well-being (Jennings & al, 2021). Patients often report a decrease in PTSD symptoms and an improvement in their ability to manage stress and negative emotions.

Additionally, measurable progress has been observed in patients' ability to socialize and regain self-confidence. The calming presence of an animal can help overcome emotional blocks and progress in trauma treatment.
Although animal-assisted therapy does not replace traditional treatments, it proves to be a valuable complement in the healing process for individuals facing post-traumatic shock and stress. It promotes holistic patient care, considering not only their mind but also the numerous benefits of the human-animal bond.