Pets in the hospital: I'm keeping an open mind

I’m not an animal lover, so it’s difficult for me to relate to the idea that a pet is a real part of the family. But I’ve met enough people who genuinely feel this way, and read the statistics, so I accept it. I have also heard about therapy animals visiting sick children and adults.

Therefore it wasn’t a huge surprise to see a USA Today story about hospitals that are beginning to allow patients’ own pets to visit them in the hospital. There are some health, safety and noise concerns, but at least some places, like the pediatric hospital in Jacksonville are letting it happen. The kids, many suffering from cancer and with unpleasant prognoses, are enjoying it, at least anecdotally.

There is some research on the impact of dogs:

Unfamiliar dogs have an “energizing effect,” creating a memorable event and elevating the day’s excitement; familiar pets, on the other hand, provide a more calming and reassuring effect, said Emily Patterson, an animal welfare scientist of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

“When a trained therapy dog visits, it’s like getting a strange person to perform music. It adds excitement to your day. When your dear pet visits, it’s like a friend is visiting you. It reconnects you with your community. You feel trusted and reassured,” Patterson said.

It seems like an interesting area of study, but I also wonder to what extent such research can be done objectively.

One thought on “Pets in the hospital: I'm keeping an open mind”

  1. I am one of those, “my pet is my family” people so I understand the want of your pet visiting. The one time I saw a benefit first hand was when a dear friend was dying at 47 years old. She was in pain, drugged and unable to move any more. Her days were filled with family members and the 2 friends she wanted by her side but there was little to do to bring comfort. She had a small dog at home that she missed so in the hours before her death they brought Bella. My friends heart rate evened out, her breathing improved and she smiled. As for Bella, she put her head carefully on her “mother’s’ lap and never moved. I think it’s important to look at each person as to what will help them. For me, bring me my family and my dog please.

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