why it’s a great idea for dogs to visit hospitals!
As we at paws in work know well, therapy dogs can be amazing for improving mental health in a variety of settings! We love taking our pups into different workplaces and seeing the instant boost in mood that comes with the opportunity to pet and play with them!
You might also be interested to learn that pet therapy has begun to gain traction as a method of treatment in all kinds of different settings, including hospices, nursing homes and care homes, special needs schools and increasingly… in hospitals!
Although it is especially important to be careful with hygiene during the Covid-19 pandemic, meaning that hospital visits for both people and pets have had to be restricted, we hope to see a resurgence in doggy therapy in hospital settings once the pandemic is finally over.
Dogs who provide animal-assisted therapy (AAT) in hospitals are usually highly trained working dogs; their presence can provide a huge boost to happiness and morale, and they are even thought to be beneficial to the recovery of certain patients!
how can therapy dogs help hospital patients?
- Therapy dogs can be of huge benefit to patients suffering from the loneliness which often comes from long isolated periods spent in hospital.
- Therapy dogs can really help build confidence in children who are anxious or nervous about hospital treatments.
- Dogs are known to be helpful to patients with autism, stroke or dementia.
pups in the icu.
Research has shown that bringing dogs into intensive care units may have benefits in terms of speeding up patient recovery times. Trials carried out at the Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit at the Johns Hopkins Hospital showed that the introduction of therapy dogs into the unit made patients more engaged and interested in activities related to their rehabilitation, for instance, patients would stand up for longer periods of time if petting a dog.
who can therapy dogs help?
Animal assisted therapy has been shown to have hugely positive results both in terms of reducing physical symptoms and in improving mental health in patients. Spending time with animals can lead to improvements in anxiety, depression and pain for people suffering from a variety of health issues. These include:
- Cancer patients
- Patients with cardiovascular diseases
- Dementia patients
- People suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder
- People suffering from anxiety
- Patients in long-term care
Pet therapy can also be beneficial in reducing pain and anxiety for children who are undergoing dental procedures. It has also been reported that animals can provide a great mood boost for caregivers and those who are visiting friends or family members in hospital.
A study carried out on a child cancer ward in 2018 discovered that the presence of a therapy dog can have huge benefits to children receiving treatment for cancer. During the study, the presence of therapy dogs resulted in a significant decrease in pain experienced by the children, and rates of stress and depression also showed a strong decrease among these children. The study also observed that the children’s caregivers showed a large decrease in depression and stress symptoms, showing that it is not just patients who can benefit from having a therapy dog on the ward!
safety and hygiene for hospital dogs.
In hospitals that allow visits from therapy dogs, there are usually strict rules regarding the conduct and behaviour of the dog and its handlers. For example, assistance dogs will usually wear brightly coloured and easily noticeable harnesses and identification tags on their collars, and handlers will also carry identification. Assistance dogs should have a carefully monitored diet and should be given regular health checks. These dogs should also be highly toilet trained so that there is little risk of a mishap on the ward! They should be groomed regularly and checked for fleas and ticks so that they don’t bring any nasties to the patients. Therapy dogs should be kept on their lead whilst in a hospital, and are usually not allowed to wander freely.
In summary, bringing therapy dogs into hospital settings has the potential to have a huge wealth of benefits to both patients, caregivers, friends and family and can help people feel better in a variety of ways! Giving a patient the chance to play with a therapy dog can reduce their symptoms and improve their mental health, and sometimes, the chance to pet a cute pup might just be the motivation that a patient needs to engage in their rehabilitation and get better more quickly. We hope that more and more hospitals will soon start to allow dogs and other animals to come for visits!