The Healing Power of Animals in Hospitals

Those of us who have, love and/or simply know animals, know about the healing power of animals.  That’s why dogs and cats are often companions for the sick and elderly.  People believe that the presence of an animal can actually help hospital patients recover quickly, but do we really know if the interaction is mutually beneficial for canines and felines?

Although there is very little scientific proof that regular visits from animals can help patients with their physical ailments, there are definite psychological and emotional benefits associated with stroking a dog or cat, holding them, and interacting with them.

New and Revised Pet Policies

Pet policies have now been rewritten to allow a patient’s pet into the hospital.  Dogs and cats are allowed to climb into beds after some form of cover is put down.  The animals seem to respond to the attention as much as their owners.  Many dogs and cats do not understand where their owners have gone after illness has set in and more importantly, after the man, woman or child has passed away.

Animal-Assisted Therapy is a Popular Option for Health Centers

Animal-assisted therapy is popular in medical centers and hospitals for a number of different types of patients.  For example, people receiving cancer treatment can feel comforted when having an animal to hold and pet.  Individuals hospitalized with chronic heart failure, veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and patients in long-term care facilities are good candidates for animal-assisted therapy programs.  They seem to benefit from the extra attention.

Shelter Pets Find Comfort Among Hospital Patients

Shelter pets waiting to be adopted appreciate the love and affection as well.  Rather than spend their days in a cage or crate hoping that someone will come to adopt them, dogs and cats get to take a ride in a vehicle and meet with people who truly appreciate their presence.  Many animal shelters have made arrangements with local hospitals and healthcare facilities to bring in pets on a regular basis as a way to brighten up a patient’s day.

Special Things to Consider

Patients with allergies will not want to be around animals and for good reason.  If they are allergic to pet dander, it could cause their symptoms to worsen.  Before bringing a dog or a cat to a patient’s room, make sure that they do not have allergies or asthma.  A nurse or doctor can help you determine which patients will do best being around a pet.

Animals have a way of making us feel good.  They also seem to really thrive on the extra attention they receive from participating in animal-assisted therapy programs.  If you know of someone who could use some cheering up, see if the hospital that they’re staying in allows animal visitors. 

If it does, prepare the patient in advance for the visit to make sure that they’re comfortable with their new ‘visitor’.  The last thing you want to do is cause a patient or an animal distress by not making arrangements accordingly.  A little thoughtfulness can go a long way when it comes to this sort of thing.