January 3, 2019

What are the Best Pets to Soothe Anxiety?

health, pets, treatments for anxiety, anxiety
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Anxiety is something that millions of Americans live with every day. In fact, the official figures for people over 18 living with anxiety stand at an astonishing 40 million! This condition can be agonizing for those who suffer from its effects and can severely affect the quality of life. Anxiety can cause everything from avoidant behaviors right up to devastating panic attacks. There is a range of treatment options for those affected by anxiety, however, not all of these work for everyone. Some may find that certain treatments may work for them, while others simply don't. 

In this article, we take a look at one of the newest and most effective treatment options that is available to anxiety sufferers: emotional support animals. These animals are a powerful, natural treatment for anxiety disorders and have been showing huge promise in the mental health care field. We give you all the information that you need to know on these superstar animals, along with the definitive guide to the best pets that can help to relieve anxiety, simply and effectively.

Anxiety: A Primal Malfunction

Anxiety disorders can be incredibly frustrating for those who suffer from them. To make things worse, the cause of anxiety is a natural function of the brain, that has spiraled out of control. Due to the evolution over time of the human race, our brains are wired for both modern and ancient functions. Anxiety disorders stem from the ancient parts of our brains known as the amygdala and hippocampus.

Of course, small doses of anxiety, our body's natural stress response, can be useful in some situations. Think about an exam or a job interview—these are examples where a small dose of anxiety can actually help to improve performance. But anxiety disorders are much more than a little adrenaline in an objectively stressful situation.

In most anxiety disorders, the amygdala and hippocampus are working against us, leading to an overproduction of stress hormones like cortisol in inappropriate situations.  

Treatments for Anxiety

There are both psychological and medical treatments available for anxiety today, however not every form of treatment is successful for everybody. Because there are a whole range of contributing factors that result in anxiety, no treatment is a one-size fits all for the condition.

Psychological treatments are often the first port of call for those that are struggling with anxiety.

Psychological Anxiety Treatments
Some of the psychological treatments that therapists employ to help their patients with anxiety include:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
A talk therapy focused on modifying negative thoughts, behaviors and emotional responses associated with psychological distress.

Improves mental health and helps with relaxation.

Treatment of mental or behavioral disorders through talk therapy.

Animal Therapy
Animal therapy involves the use of animals to relieve the symptoms of anxiety.

Medical Anxiety Treatments
Medical treatments are often effective if psychological treatments alone do not work for a patient. Medical treatments for anxiety can include:

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI)
Eases symptoms of depressed mood and anxiety.

Relieves anxiety and tension. May promote sleep.

Prevents or relieves depression and elevates mood.

Causes drowsiness, calmness and dulled senses. Some types may become addictive.

Nerve pain medication
Blocks pain caused by damaged nerves.

Animal Therapy for Anxiety

One of the newest forms of therapy for anxiety that has been gaining popularity in recent times, is the use of animals. Animals have long been known to be a natural mood-booster for humans, assisting to encourage the brain release feelgood chemicals. Animals have also been shown to have incredible therapeutic effects, assisting in a range of ways to recuperate patients.

For anxiety in particular, therapy animals are excellent at altering the chemistry of the brain in a positive way, helping to alleviate its effects. They also provide a number of other benefits for patients.

Benefits of Animals for Anxiety Sufferers

Pets can help to fight mental illnesses in a number of ways. The benefits that animals can have for those with anxiety disorders are far-reaching and extremely beneficial for owners. Having a pet can help to provide a point of focus and even distraction for those with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

Those with social anxiety disorder (SAD) may find that an emotional support animal may help them to reintegrate into social situations, with the pressure taken off them by their gorgeous pet. To find out more benefits of an emotional support animal for your specific anxiety disorder, talk to your therapist.

Getting a Therapy Animal

For those that suffer from anxiety, another key benefit of having a therapy animal is the ease and speed at which it is possible to begin using one of these exceptional animals. In order to get an emotional support animal, a patient must obtain an ESA letter in order to allow their therapy animal to accompany them when traveling and renting accommodation. To get an ESA letter, the best course of action is to talk to your therapist, either in-office or through tele-therapy, about using a pet for therapy purposes. Your therapist will draw up an ESA letter for you, and discuss how you can use a pet as part of your treatment plan to help relieve your anxiety.

Best Pets for Anxiety  

So, you've decided a pet is an awesome way to fight your anxiety. Good for you! But what is your ideal pet? These are the best pets to help with your anxiety disorder.


Dogs are the ultimate all-rounders when it comes to pets. Dogs are friendly, loyal and sociable. They are excellent to travel with, as they are great at adapting to any situation if well-trained and socialized. Dogs can provide a securing and protective presence to their owners, making them feel more confident in situations that they normally would not. Dogs can make excellent anxiety supports, however, they do have a few potential drawbacks, depending on your point of view.

Dogs are very co-dependent on their owners, which some may view as positive or negative, depending on their situation. They're extremely active, requiring a lot of exercise, meaning that they are not suitable for every owner. Dogs are also creatures that thrive on social interaction, so for those with extreme social anxiety, dogs may be an unsuitable choice.

Overall, dogs make excellent pets for those with mild to moderate anxiety, due to their fun-loving and protective nature. Look into ESA dogs!


Cats are quiet, affectionate and super easy pets to bring into your life. Many anxiety sufferers are sensitive souls, and the soothing company of a cat can be extremely healing.

Cats don't require a lot of exercise or space, so they are the perfect pet for those who are not in a position to provide much of either. For those with anxiety, cats can provide affection and companionship and encourage calm behavior.

Some of the drawbacks of cats are that they can sometimes be stand-offish and selective about when they would like to be touched. They can also be slightly harder to travel with due the fact that they cannot be trained as well as dogs. Cats can make excellent support animals for those with all types of anxiety because of their chilled out nature and love of pats, which help to calm their owners.


Rabbits are sweet little darlings that are ideal for small spaces and for those that love snuggling pets to relieve their anxiety. Interacting with rabbits can be soothing and almost meditative for their owners. Rabbits are extremely quiet, take up very little space and are great pet for those that suffer anxiety.

 Unfortunately, rabbits are fragile and require a high level of care (cage-cleaning) so this can be draw back for some. Rabbits do not require their owner to provide them with exercise, but they need a large hutch and access to shade, but warmth at night. Rabbits may be the right choice for those who need a quiet and small pet to help ease their anxiety.

If you have anxiety and other treatments are not working for you, it's definitely worth looking into an emotional support animal. Depending on your anxiety diagnosis, one of these pets could be the perfect aid and support to your mental health.

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