Your Pet May Help in Stroke Recovery

Pets and stroke recovery

Should you keep your pet after a stroke? This can be a highly emotional question for you and your family. It turns out that living with a pet can actually have a positive impact on your health as a stroke survivor. The latest scientific research studies report that having a pet can help improve stroke recovery. This probably isn’t a surprise to you if you love animals, or if you are devoted to your pet.

The authors of a small Swedish study of 17 stroke survivors listed 4 benefits of pet ownership for stroke survivors’ recovery including

1. The mutual caring between a person and her pet adds to a meaningful life for a stroke survivor.

2. Pets as companions provide an incentive and motivation for recovery for stroke survivors.

3. Stroke survivors often view their companion pets as family members.

4. Pets can help provide safety and protection for their owners.


Pets and stroke prevention

Recent medical studies suggest that pet companionship may also help in preventing heart disease and strokes. A first stroke can leave a stroke survivor with a long-term outcome that may range from mild to quite disabling.

One of the most important parts of your health care after a stroke lies in preventing another stroke because the cumulative effects of repeated strokes increase the chances of a serious disability, dementia or even death.

A statement from the American Heart Association regarding pet ownership says that, ‘Pet ownership, particularly dog ownership, is probably associated with decreased heart disease risk.’ Heart disease is a leading cause of stroke, and anything you can do to protect yourself from heart disease and stroke can help you live a longer and healthier life and prevent disability.


Can you care for your pet after a stroke?

Because a stroke may be disabling, you might not be able to continue to care for your pet after a severe stroke. You will need to ask yourself the following questions regarding your abilities (or the capabilities of your loved one) to care for a pet after a stroke.


1. Are you able to consistently keep track of feeding your pet as needed?

2. Can you ensure that you will buy an adequate supply of food and liquids for your pet?

3. Can you keep your pet clean?

4. Can you keep your pet's habitat clean?

5. Can you guarantee that your pet is up to date on routine pet health, reproductive control and recommended shots?

6. Are you able to detect when your pet is sick and get qualified care for your pet in case he becomes ill?

7. Can you ensure that your pet does not bother, disturb or disrupt neighbors?

8. Are you able to ensure that your pet will not harm neighbors or visitors?

9. Are you able to manage your pet’s bodily waste?

10. Can you keep your pet out of harm's way?


You might have to make some tough decisions about whether of not you can continue to care for your beloved pet if you have recently had a stroke.

Keep in mind that even if you aren't personally able to take care of your pet, you can still reap the benefits of pet companionship after a stroke by visiting your pet or bonding with another pet at the home of a relative or friend.

Some other ways to maintain your love and connection with friendly animals can include regularly visiting farms, zoos or pet shops to befriend some gentle animals without taking on the responsibility for their care if it is too much for you.



Living with companion animals after stroke: experiences of older people in community and primary care nursing, Johansson M, Ahlstrom G, Jonsson AC, British Journal of Community Nursing, December 2014

Pet Ownership and Cardiovascular Risk, A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association

Pet ownership and cardiovascular risk: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association, Levine GN, Allen K, Braun LT, Christian HE, Friedmann E, Taubert KA, Thomas SA, Wells DL, Lange RA; American Heart Association Council on Clinical Cardiology; Council on Cardiovascular and Stroke Nursing, Circulation, June 2013

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