Therapy Dogs Really Do Help Hospital and Nursing Home Patients

Many of our clients have trained their dogs, had them certified as Therapy Dogs, then visit hospitals, nursing homes, counseling centers, and schools every week. I see their dogs once a year for required examination, vaccination, parasite testing, and to hear their handler’s stories of the joy that their trained pets bring to others who are in need of a warm muzzle and wagging tail in their lives.

Dogs usually aren’t allowed in hospitals, but Therapy Dogs are there for a purpose. There are many heartwarming tales recalling how the simple act of petting a friendly dog can reduce stress, calm anxious patients, and just in general make their lives a little brighter. It seems intuitive that this would be effective, but until now little scientific data exists on whether therapy dogs actually make a difference.

Researchers at the American Humane Association are finishing a study on how Therapy Dogs’ visits affect kids in cancer therapy. Fifty-one kids and their parents at five cancer centers around the U.S. participated, along with thirty-one Therapy Dogs and their handlers.

Kids who got regular dog visits had more stable blood pressures and heart rates compared with those who didn’t get dog visits. Quality of life and anxiety surveys clearly showed that Therapy Dog sessions helped with anxiety, too. The parents of the children in the control group not getting visits found that they had anxiety levels that fluctuated wildly during extended chemotherapy, while the parents who were present for dog therapy sessions had stable or decreased anxiety levels.

The researchers also studied all this from the dog’s perspective as well. All sessions were recorded so that trainers could assess their dog’s temperament, and stress levels were determined by testing saliva cortisol levels before and after every session.

For more information on how your pet can become a registered Therapy Dog, contact Therapy Dog International ( or the American Kennel Club ( Locally in Pittsburgh, the Misty Pines Dog Park in Wexford is a certified TDI training site. For a device that would provide some peace of mind to working owners with sick pets at home, the future is now.

Pittsburgh Spay & Vaccination Clinic is a state-of-the-art, full-service suburban veterinary facility serving the Pittsburgh Area since 1980.. We offer diagnostic, medical, surgical, and dental care to dogs, cats, ferrets, rabbits, and pocket pets in the Pittsburgh area.

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