Hospital Patients Allowed Visits From Their Own Dog

Every dog owner knows, when you aren’t feeling well, nothing quite lifts your spirits or heals your soul like a cuddle or lick from your beloved dog. A few hospitals around the country are finally starting to understand just how therapeutic they can be, and are allowing patients to get in-hospital visits from their own dogs.

Texas Children’s Hospital was one of the first to allow patients to have visits from the family pet about five years ago. A director for the hospital told ABC News why.

“When there is a patient in the hospital that will be here for a significant amount of time, we think it is important for them to have their entire family here,” said Jamie Snow, Assistant Director of Child Life and Social Work at Texas Children’s Hospital. “And some people consider their pets family members.”

An organization called PAWS (Pets Are Wonderful Support) Houston approached the Texas Children’s Hospital administration to help kickstart the program.

Here’s how it works: a social worker or child life specialist, hearing that a patient has a pet at home, speaks to doctors who can approve a visit. Then PAWS is contacted. They ensure that the pet is vaccinated and has a bath before the visit. A PAWS volunteer will meet the pet and family members at the entrance of the hospital where they perform a “behavior check” to make sure the pet’s temperament is good for a hospital environment. They then take the pet to the patient’s room.

Of the dozens of hospitals around the nation participating in the dog visitation program, none have reported a single negative result. In fact, results have been more than positive.

Donna Dishman, co-founder and executive director of PAWS Houston, told ABC News about the first personal pet visit. The patient was an 83-year-old woman in intensive care, diagnosed with breast cancer.

“[She] was not eating, not responding, and had given up,” Dishman said. “When we put her dog on her bed, she started talking, and started eating.”

Our dogs have a remarkable way of helping us to heal, giving us hope or something to live for. With the success of pet visitation programs already in place, and scientific evidence of the healing power of dogs, our hope is that more and more hospitals allow canine family members to visit loved ones.

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