Pet Visits In Hospital May Improve Recovery

We know how therapeutic and calming having a dog cuddle up beside you can be when you are not feeling well.  They seem to instinctively know when their pet parents aren’t up for a romp in the yard or a long walk and more often than not, they will seek out their human companion for extra petting time.

But when patients are in hospital, long-term care or hospice, they miss their loving pets and worry about their care.  That’s where non-profit organizations such as Zachary’s Paws for Healing hopes to offer support by coordinating pet/companion visits in hospitals and providing foster care for pets while their owner’s receive medical treatment.

Zachary’s Paws for Healing was named for a young man who sadly passed away in November of 2014 from Hodgkin’s Disease.  He was a patient at Juravinski Medical Center in Hamilton, Ontario where he spent weeks receiving treatment; longing for a visit from his dogs.  When the staff was able to coordinate these visits, they saw a dramatic improvement in his attitude and stress levels.

Studies have found that visits from cherished pets not only lower stress levels, they improve overall well-being and remind patients they have a reason to return home.   While visiting therapy dogs have long been accepted in hospital settings, visits from patient pets has not become widespread, yet.  More than 50 patient/pet visits have been organized at Juravinski Hospital and it is hoped the program will expand across Canada, thanks in part to a partnership with Royal Canin, a worldwide pet food manufacturer.

A growing number of hospitals in the United States are also allowing patients to have visits from their own pets.  A program started at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston called PAWS (Pets Are Wonderful Support), helps coordinate visits and make sure visiting pets are properly vaccinated and receive a bath before entering the hospital. They also are checked to ensure they have the proper temperament and behavior for a hospital setting.

Many patients, especially seniors, who have stopped communicating or eating, will perk up with a visit from their beloved pet.  It can be an important tool to recovery and offers comfort for patients with chronic illness.

To learn more about the programs, visit or ask if there is a PAWS program at your local hospital.