Ever so often a blogger, in this case me, discovers a piece of news that’s old, but so interesting and relevant. When Best Friends Can Visit, appearing in the New York Times New Old Age blog, is just such an article.
This report, written by Judith Graham, describes how some hospitals and medical centers have decided to allow pets — as opposed to trained therapy dogs — to visit sick patients. One of these programs, at the University of Maryland Medical Center, has been in place since 2008. The report is filled with patient and family testimonials, explaining the positive differences that visiting pets can make.
One small 2010 study of 10 healthy dog owners by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth’s Center for Human-Animal Interaction found that both unfamiliar and familiar dogs provoked similar reactions: a relaxation response and reduction in blood pressure and levels of cortisol, a stress-related hormone, according to Dr. Sandra Barker, director of the center and a professor of psychiatry.
A Chicago Tribune article, Pets Get Visiting Hours in Hospital, describes in some detail how the Rush University Medical Center set up patient-pet visits. The hospital administration spent three years weighing the pros and cons of pet visits but ultimately, writer Bonnie Miller Rubin reports:
…Rush decided that the emotional charge a patient gets from time with his or her own pet outweighed the risks. So officials moved forward, joining about a dozen other hospitals nationwide with similar regulations…
Most hospitals appear to have an easy-to-follow list of pet visit guidelines — requirements such as baths and grooming preceding visits and ensuring that another handler, not the patient, can stay with the visiting animal and keep watch. For a state-by-state list of hospitals with dog-friendly policies as well as a set of the general guidelines that patients and their families must follow in order to take pets on hospital visits visit I Love Dog Friendly, a site that keeps track of dog-friendly policies.