A Guide to Pets & Animal Therapy for ASD Families

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The benefits of pets and animal therapy for the people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is an appealing concept. However, it’s not always easy to find a pet that suits your ASD loved one or you yourself. Here are some tips on how to help those families in need of an animal companion have a more successful search.

The “the guide” is a great resource that can help you find the best pet for your ASD child.


Pets may be quite beneficial to youngsters on the autism spectrum. The lessons learnt from caring for a pet may be applied to almost every aspect of life. Because animals can have such an influence on people, many therapists provide animal therapy to their patients.

While applied behavior analysis (ABA) treatment is the most common strategy to aiding persons with autism, additional therapies, particularly for children, may help with emotional and behavioral development and growth.

A pet or service animal may aid in the development of social skills, the maintenance of a schedule and routine, and the relaxation of a kid with autism. Many psychological research have proven that the link between people and animals improves mental and physical health.

If your kid has autism, you may want to consider buying them an animal. There are a number distinct animal groupings to examine, including:

You may pick an animal that satisfies your mental and physical demands based on your child’s needs, desires, and the degree of their autism. Before you look for an animal to assist your kid, think about how severe their autism is, what sort of support they may need, and, most importantly, what kind of animal they would enjoy the most.

The Psychological Benefits of Animal & Human Interactions

Almost everyone benefits from their pet’s companionship. According to scientific evidence, having a deep relationship with a pet may reduce your heart rate, decrease your blood pressure, and change the way your brain produces chemicals, including dopamine and cortisol.

Dopamine is linked to good emotions like pleasure, and dogs have been found to increase dopamine levels in the brain. Cortisol, on the other hand, is linked to stress. It has been shown that having a pet to play with or sit on your lap reduces the amount of cortisol released by your brain.

Above all, loving and caring for another creature who loves you back generates oxytocin, a brain hormone linked to emotional connection. Even more tension and anxiety are relieved when the brain produces oxytocin.

Oxytocin is also linked to feelings of empathy, which may lead to an increase in social behaviors. Empathy for a pet that demonstrates unconditional affection helps bridge the gap between expressing connection with other people for those on the autistic spectrum who struggle to express themselves socially.

People with autism, particularly youngsters, are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and isolation. Struggling with social skills is one of the diagnostic criteria for autism, which is generally due to a lack of awareness of linguistic and physical signs.

This may cause someone with autism to withdraw within oneself and avoid social interaction. It may cause sadness or fear in the individual, particularly when they meet new people or leave a comfortable area. Having a pet or an emotional support animal may provide a feeling of compassion and connection that other people may not be able to provide.

Having a pet teaches personal responsibility to youngsters, particularly those on the autistic spectrum. They develop a regular schedule of feeding, walking, cleaning, and other caretaking responsibilities, which they might use later in life to assist them care for themselves.

If your kid is often insecure as a result of interactions at school, a pet may help them by providing unconditional affection. Previous study has shown that having a pet from an early age helped youngsters develop stronger social skills, whether they were on the autistic spectrum or not.

The Difference Between Pets, Support Animals & Service Animals

It’s critical to know precisely what kind of animal you need or desire before hunting for a pet to help your youngster. This isn’t just about finding a certain breed of cat or dog; it’s also about figuring out whether your kid might benefit from a different sort of animal therapy, such as an emotional support animal, a service animal, or animal therapy that takes place in specific sessions outside of your house.

For persons on the autistic spectrum, animal-assisted therapy might be a terrific support option. People with diverse physical illnesses, autism, or behavioral challenges had favorable overall results, including higher emotional well-being and control, according to a meta-analysis of 49 distinct scientific research. Addiction, schizophrenia, and chronic depression symptoms were also controlled, making persons with serious emotional and behavioral issues feel more at peace.

The following are examples of animal-assisted therapy:

  • Animals that provide emotional comfort. The sympathetic qualities of a dog, cat, potbelly pig, small pony, or other animal are picked. The emotional support animal lives with you in your home and remains close to the person who need assistance, such as your autistic kid.
  • Personalized treatment. Therapy takes place in a new setting, such as a ranch, where the client may learn how to care for, ride, and even train a horse. This sort of treatment may involve time after each session or with your kid’s ABA therapist to talk about the therapy’s results, such as how it felt or what your child learned.
  • Animals that provide assistance. Typically, this is a dog that has been trained to assist persons with certain linguistic or physical difficulties in maintaining physical independence. In an emergency, the dog may seek assistance, evaluate whether it is safe to cross the street, or do other tasks, such as providing emotional support.

If you’re searching for more than a pet, such as a service animal, emotional support animal, or animal-assisted therapy, check for appropriate credentials and expertise. Often, animal-assisted therapy is done in collaboration with a certified therapist or medical professional. Your child’s ABA therapist may be able to assist you in locating someone with the necessary qualifications.

Service animals and emotional support animals must be certified by a registered professional trainer and therapist and have particular, formal training. While many service animals are rescued from animal shelters, they are picked for certain traits that make them sensitive and simple to teach. Because service animals are medical aids, your doctor or therapist may be able to write you a prescription for one.

A service animal, such as a dog, is more likely to provide emotional assistance. They may, for example, accompany your kid to stressful events such as a dentist visit, a school field trip, or shopping in a busy place. Support animals may be taught to lean on your kid when they get worried, whilst a service animal may attract your attention so you can assist calm your child.

Dogs are the most popular pet or therapy animal in the United States.

Your kid with autism may benefit from a variety of pets. According to several research, children who spend even a short amount of time with an animal, such as a guinea pig, see a temporary improvement in their autistic symptoms. Toys, on the other hand, have a smaller impact (even therapeutic toys that serve to teach emotional control or social skills).

It’s important for all parents of children with autism to think about what kind of animal would be ideal for their kid. There are many alternatives for pets and service animals, ranging from dogs and cats to fish, reptiles, and even horses.

The domestic canine, or dog, is one of the most devoted and caring pets. Children with autism had the most beneficial relationships with dogs, according to a study published in the Journal of Pediatric Nursing. Even if the family did not have a dog, around 7 out of 10 parents said their children loved spending time with or near dogs.

Another research of parents’ experiences with service dogs and their autistic children indicated that the presence of the dog benefited both the children and the parents, both at home and in public. Parents thought their children were safer while the dog was around, and they felt more confident in public with their kid. Others in the public were also more courteous and responsible toward their kid when the service animal was around.

Dogs, on the other hand, do not appeal to all youngsters. You could wish to locate a friend or family member who has a kid-friendly dog and watch how your child reacts to the presence of the animal. Consider bringing your kid to a dog adoption day at a pet shop or animal shelter to see if they are interested in the animals if they can tolerate noise and crowds.

These are some more factors to consider while selecting the proper animal.

  • Is your kid sensitive to animals, dust, or anything else that dog hair can aggravate?
  • Are you and your family capable of providing for an animal’s needs, such as medical appointments, food, and grooming?
  • Are you able to teach the dog so that you and your kid can manage it in public or outdoors with ease?
  • Can your youngster emotionally handle unexpected shifts in behavior or attention, such as when the dog moves or barks?

Even though your kid likes being around animals on occasion, they may not be suitable for continual animal care or attention in the house. Having a pet, especially a well-trained service animal, requires you to divert your focus away from your kid. It’s conceivable that your kid has significant physical or emotional requirements, in which case this isn’t helpful to you or your child.

If this is the case, animal-assisted therapy may be a better option. Your kid may spend time with an animal that is trained to pay attention to them while still having the option to quit the treatment session and return to their normal surroundings.

The Most Popular Dog Breeds

It might be challenging to keep track of all the different dog breeds. Many of these breeds arose as a result of breeders seeking certain characteristics, such as assistance in herding sheep, hunting birds, protecting territory, rescuing catastrophe victims, and performing other tasks. Many contemporary dogs make excellent emotional partners.

The following are the most popular dog breeds for companionship:

  • Golden retrievers are a breed of dog that is popular in
  • Labrador retrievers are a breed of dog that was developed in the United
  • Labradoodles

These dogs are intelligent and kind, making them simple to teach, quiet, and enjoyable companions. If you acquire a pet from a shelter, keep in mind that many mixed breeds make great pets as well.

Inquire about the dog’s history with the shelter.

  • Is the animal used to being around youngsters, and if so, was it a nice friend for the child?
  • Is the animal prone to being frightened or defensive?
  • Is there a lot of noise from the animal, such as barking at passing cars?
  • Has the dog been exposed to other animals such as cats, pet rats, fish, or other dogs?
  • Has the animal developed a dread of other people, such as adult men? ?

It may take some time to choose the ideal dog for your kid. For assistance in identifying dogs that adore children, you may contact local shelters, service animal groups, or even therapists who specialize in treating children with autism.

Animals from other species make excellent pets or therapy animals.

While dogs are the most popular pet, therapy animal, and service animal, many other animals may assist youngsters acquire new skills such as caretaking. Therapy animals include cats, fish, birds, hamsters, guinea pigs, potbelly pigs, and even tiny horses. They’re also great companions in the home.

If your kid isn’t interested in dogs, or is perhaps scared of them, they could benefit from another form of pet or animal-assisted intervention in your household.

Cats & Children With Autism

Cats are typically thought of as the polar opposite of dogs when it comes to home pets. They’re said to be more self-reliant, less pleasant, and less attached to their human owners. For many cats, this is not the case. Cats like playing, cuddling, and spending time with humans.

Cats may be preferred by children on the autism spectrum over dogs since they do not need continual care. They also enjoy a variety of various types of play and feeding exchanges, and they don’t need to walk.

Many youngsters with autism prefer the “gaze” of a cat over the “look” of a dog, according to a research released in 2020. Cats seldom gaze directly at humans, and when they are calm and enjoying the company of others, they blink slowly. Dogs, on the other hand, are said to have a “long stare,” which may be more uncomfortable for certain youngsters on the autistic spectrum, particularly those who have trouble making eye contact.

Parents’ accounts of children with autism being near adult cats were included in a 2018 survey. The cats and the youngsters tended to interact constructively in the first half of the poll. The second section, which featured phone interviews with parents of children on the autistic spectrum, discovered that cats were a calming presence that provided protection and guardianship to their children.

The participants in the second round of the survey were separated into groups depending on the degree of their child’s autism. Cats tended to be fairly loving and did not engage as much when children had more acute symptoms, according to parents. Some cats have been observed to be aggressive toward children with autism, although this has not been linked to the severity of the disorder.

Choosing a cat with the proper demeanor to be around your kid with autism is just as crucial as finding the ideal dog. According to certain research, kittens taken into the household are better buddies for your youngster.

Raising and teaching a kitten may be difficult, so check with animal shelters to see if they have adult cats that are accustomed to being around youngsters. You may also work with your child’s ABA therapist to locate service or therapy cats who have experience with youngsters with autism.

Organizations that work with service animals

While you may ask your child’s ABA therapist or even their physician for advice, you can also contact organizations that train and certify therapy or service animals to learn more about your possibilities and receive answers to your queries. The following are some of the most well-known American organizations:

For more information about service animals, emotional support animals, and the ideal pets for your kid on the autism spectrum, visit the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) supports the legal definition of therapy and service animals based on the Americans with Disabilities Act’s standards (ADA).

Finding the Right Animal Companion for Your Child & Your Family

Animals may help your kid relax, feel protected and cared for, and even lead them to engage with other people in their surroundings, from pets to service animals.

People’s views and conduct toward others alter when animals, particularly pets like dogs or cats, are around, according to studies on support animals. When animals are around, many individuals experience less stress in social settings than when other humans are there. This is particularly true if the person is prone to being shunned or secluded.

Several studies have shown that animal treatments or home pets may be beneficial to persons with autism. Many studies found that therapy animals, pets, or emotional support animals were most beneficial to those on the autism spectrum who already enjoyed animals. Those who disliked or were terrified of animals were not helped.

Getting a pet, emotional support animal, or service animal for your kid may be beneficial if they already have an interest in animals. There are numerous different treatments you can add to ABA therapy to make your kid feel comfortable and supported if they are not interested in animals or exhibit fear around certain sorts of animals.


Autism Spectrum Disorder Treatment and Intervention Services (Updated September 2019) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is a U.S. government agency that (CDC).

Pet Love’s Health Advantages (In June of 2020). Today’s Psychology.

Depression and Autism Have Deep Emotional Ties (July 2019). Spectrum.

Autism and Pets: More Proof of Social Advantages Autism Speaks is a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness about

Animal-Assisted Therapy is a kind of therapy in which animals are used to help Today’s Psychology.

What a Study of Empathy in Animals Could Teach Us About Autism in People (2016, January). The Washington Post is a news organization based in the United States.

How to Decide Between Autism Service Dogs & Autism Therapy Dogs. Autism Speaks.

A Cross-Sectional Study of Parents’ Perceptions of the Value of Assistance Dogs for Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder. (May 14, 2014) The British Medical Journal is a peer-reviewed journal published in the

Cats are preferred as pets by children with autism due to their ‘less intrusive gaze.’ (In September of 2020) News number 18

Cats’ Adorable Interactions With Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder (March 2018). Veterinary Science’s New Frontiers

Animal-Assisted Intervention and Autism Spectrum Disorder Research from 2012 to 2015. (February of this year). Applied Development Science is a term that refers to the study of how things

Animals and Autistic People Have a Special Relationship (August 2016). The Atlantic Ocean.

The Importance of Animals in the Treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder (2015). Animal-Assisted Therapy Handbook (Fourth Edition).

Autism and Animal-Assisted Intervention. Purdue University is located in West Lafayette, Indiana.

Autism and Anthropomorphic Theory of Mind: Seeing More Than Human (2018). Psychology’s New Frontiers.

Do Animals with Autism Pay More Attention to Social Situations? An examination of eye tracking. (2020). Psychology’s New Frontiers.

The “guide online” is a guide to pets and animal therapy for families with ASD. It includes the different types of animals that may be used in therapy, as well as how to set up an animal-assisted therapy program. Reference: the guide online.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the 5 most important things a pet needs?

A: The five most important things for a pet are food, water, shelter/warmth from the elements (cold weather), love and attention.

Which pet is best for beginners?

A: It is hard to answer this question because everyone has different preferences. There are a variety of pets that you may want to try, but it would be best if you ask someone who knows more about the specific type of pet for which they have experience.

What is the easiest pet to keep?

A: The easiest pet to keep is a hamster. Hamsters can survive on almost any type of food, and are easy for owners to take care of.

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