Should Dogs Be Allowed in Hospitals?

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.

Dog Running Image

Over the past couple of decades it has become increasingly common to find dogs lounging around offices during work hours. Now our furry friends are making their way into some hospitals around the U.S.

The American Pet Products Manufacturers Association found that 17 percent of all companies allow pets in the workplace, and 23 percent of workers believe that pets should be allowed in the workplace. A Virginia Commonwealth University study found that dogs in the workplace can lead to reduced stress and increased job satisfaction.

Even though hospitals aren’t your ordinary workplace, dogs are becoming more common on medical campuses across the U.S. for both therapy and security purposes. However, the jury is still out on whether dogs are a clean addition to hospitals or if they present a risk to patients.

Security Dogs

Security magazine recently released an interview with Rick Ortiz, Security Director/Banner Health Security K9 Unit Director. Ortiz uses K9 security every day at Banner Health facilities in Arizona and Colorado, and the healthcare company has been using dogs as a form of security since 1995.

Ortiz says that his K9 force provides “an alternative to arming security officers, thus giving us a non-lethal force.” The dogs patrol the campuses to deter criminal activity and some also are used to assist in looking for suspicious packages.

Ortiz also says other health systems across the U.S. are interested in his program and often contact him for information on how the K9 security force works. He adds that although patients and new visitors initially may be surprised by the presence of dogs, most warm up to the animals and many tend to begin to view the K9 force as therapy dogs.

Therapy Dogs in Hospitals

Official therapy dogs are also becoming a more common sight in many hospitals, and some medical facilities are even allowing long-term patients to bring their own pets to visit them in their hospital rooms.

National Geographic reports that evidence of “positive responses to such animal-assisted therapy has mostly been anecdotal. But a recent study on elderly nursing home patients now offers scientific support that brief weekly visits from man’s best friend can have a positive therapeutic impact.”

The same article talks about a golden retriever named Bo that has visited patients at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center for the past three years as part of the POOCH (Pets Offer Ongoing Care and Healing) program. Bo not only visits patients, but also helps families in waiting rooms temporarily take their minds away from their troubles.

Keeping It Clean

Bo’s owner, Marcia Strum, notes that Bo can only visit every other week, however, as he has to be thoroughly scrubbed before heading to the hospital, and more frequent washings would lead to skin problems.

Which brings up the cleanliness issue.

The New York Times reports on a Canadian study showing that dogs can easily transmit germs between patients. The study explored dogs’ capacity to carry and spread germs in the hospital: “Compared to human visitors, animals typically visit a larger number of patients and staff members and walk bare-pawed on hospital corridors, possibly making them more likely to pick up germs.”

Although this stresses the importance of our own regular hand washing at work, it also raises a question of whether the risk of spreading germs outweighs the benefits dogs offer patients.

We present the issue to you: What are your experiences with dogs guarding hospitals or visiting patients? If your workplace doesn’t allow pets, do you think it would be a good idea? Let us know in the comments below!

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.

Notify of
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
5 years ago

Funny..people go to hospitals.. get infection..worse off than when they went in! Hospital staff/workers don’t always practice good hygiene. Kids are Germ buckets..just like adults. Dogs are clean if u keep them clean.

3 years ago

Yes to Dogs, they carry less germs than humans and their mouths have a healing property as many already know. Their ability to reduce stress and to comfort is more healing than many of the medicines that patients are given. Please allow more pets to visit patients whether in hospitals, nursing homes, anywhere and everywhere and please someone listening, allow the elderly to adopt the pets in our SPCA’s. It is ridiculous that the elderly are refused adoption by many of these agencies, the attitude prevails that they are not capable of being good enough caregivers. To put an animal… Read more »

3 years ago


Tiffany, RN
4 years ago

I am a huge believer that animals, especially dogs, should be in parts of the healthcare system. I am a nurse, a dog owner(rescue pups of course), volunteer with a rescue and have dealt with many different kinds of dogs. If someone is extremely sensitive to infection, then access should be extremely limited on all fronts. The dogs aren’t in a sterile environment, like the OR. I also believe that the dog should be vaccinated and be a dog that doesn’t have behavioral issues. I have also written a couple of research papers dealing with this exact topic. I was… Read more »

Harry Parham RN
2 months ago

It’s TIME we got back to the time-honored lessons learned long ago of the healing powers of the heart. What could be more healing than the warm, big-eyed, non-judging looking over of a fluffy best friend. It isn’t all sterile, cold, masked and gowning that heals, just the opposite!!

Max Sayer
2 years ago

I have been thinking about looking for a new hospital for my dog. I really appreciated the tip about looking for places that have Therapy for dogs in the hospital. It is really important to me that I would be able to visit while my dog is in therapy.

4 years ago

I was a patient in the hospital way too much when I went through mastectomies for cancer and all the fun of the chemotherapy. I do not own a dog and really don’t want an animal in my home. However, on one of my many lengthy stays, I was asked if I would like a visit from the therapy dogs visiting that day. I initially said no, but the called the nurse and said I would just like them to “stop by”. They stopped at my door and asked if that was close enough or did I want them to… Read more »

N. Horvath
4 years ago

Our hospital has therapy dogs come in from time to time, and first off, there is always an owner with them. These comments about “dogs roaming the facility” are a bit blizzard because I don’t think anyone is suggesting that in a hospital. By having the owner there, the dogs never enter any isolation rooms, and would always ask at the door before entering. They also ask at the nurses station which patients would most benefit from a visit. These dogs (in NY state atleast) must go through vigorous training put out by the AKC, and be certified “canine good… Read more »

5 years ago

How do you think MSRA and VRE get passed around a hospital. Humans Professionals and Doctors not washing hands and then we have family coming and going that are not washing hands and not all bath daily. Head lice etc
If a family dog and that family member has build immunization system with the dog germs, and if the dog or cat is health and help the patient mental status to get better faster and out of the hospital sooner. So be it.

2 months ago

I see dogs – cats in a hospital setting as a very valuable asset. From my close to 40yrs working in the medical field, I have seen the positive effects that animals have.

2 months ago

I work in the VA system where dogs have become invaluable to some veterans to help them deal with anxiety and PTSD- the programs to provide them to veterans who request them is growing and i see more and more dogs at our VA medical center as time goes by, though not nearly enough of them. I understand the cleanliness issue, but this would of course be the responsibility of the dog’s guardian/parent to ensure proper medical care, bathing and proper socialization. For those of us who love dogs/animals, they really can and do brighten your day and the good… Read more »

2 months ago

Completely agree to have dogs in hospitals they are a great benefit to patients and staff.

Last edited 2 months ago by Susan
2 months ago

I worked for a trauma center and have a therapy dog that visits the staff. The program was launched last year and has been a big success for staff morale. Tipper, the trauma dog, makes her rounds on most nursing units (we do avoid covid units) and other departments to give staff a minute to decompress and just enjoy the dog. Tipper is a Labradoodle, this breed is known to be hypoallergenic. I only go up to the staff if they are responsive and want to visit with her. I have had special requests from our ED resident lead, who… Read more »

2 months ago

Yes, animals can be very therapeutic and should be allowed. It is understandable that there are concerns but if the animal is certified and the handler has been properly oriented, there should be a decrease in these issues mentioned. It is a more serious problem when you have staff members or patients that may be allergic, but there are also interventions that will help prevent these folks from having allergic reactions. I do think the benefits outweigh the risks.

2 years ago

I am glad to see conversations in this subject. I am a huge animal lover. I often wonder however beside infection control for the patient the spread of disease or germs to other patients. How does anyone know the animals care is up to date , the animal is clean and safe? Like I said I am a huge animal lover. But I am strongly against areas deemed necessary for Sanitation. Hospital, grocery store or even salons. Some places still receiving fines for animals. I would love to see a clear answer on when and where pets can exist. There… Read more »

3 years ago


Frances Childress
3 years ago

As a nurse allergic to dogs and cats, I feel that allowing animals in restaurants, airplanes, churches and hospitals often infringes upon the well being of many.Thinking too of travel in Europe where animals are allowed everywhere, and everywhere one must watch your step or step in animal waste.

Kay Kellen
3 years ago

I do not think dogs should be allowed in the acute hospital setting due to infection control and the fact that we already have a problem with patients getting hospital acquired infections. I have seen benefits of therapy dogs in long term care especially with the patient with dementia. In this setting, there is always a handler present. I don’t like to see animals brought on airplanes either as there are many people with allergies that can not avoid being in the presence of an animal.

4 years ago

When my husband was in long term rehab for a brain injury I took our dog to visit him weekly. The nurses and other patients loved seeing him, he brought smiles to many faces and no one once complained. He was instrumental in helping my husband to heal and that was of majorimportance to me. So yes dogs belong in patient care in many situations

Kim Stevenson
5 years ago

During my days as a greyhound owner (retired racers), I would often take my big boy Dodger to my work place (a local hospital) to visit a friend of mine when my friend was a patient. The nurses on the floor knew me, knew my friend, knew my dog, and the bond my friend and the dog had. Dodger was always welcome, Security staff never said a word, nor did infection control staff. Dodger and I would walk thru the front door of the hospital, ride the elevator to the designated floor, walk into our friend’s room and watch him… Read more »

Edward Potts
5 years ago

I think Therapy Canines SHOULD be allowed wherever they are wanted. Yes, my Canine Companion may lick his butt, however his butt is cleaner than your fingers or mouth!

5 years ago

At a major pediatric hospital we did extensive research way back in the 1980″s prior to allowing therapy dogs to visit patients. So this is not a new idea or trend. Our data showed that there was no correlation between infections and therapy/family dog monitored visits. The benefits clearly outweighed the negatives. Simple notifications to the public and patients that “today is therapy dog visit day” can hep those who do not wish to be exposed or are allergic. Dogs are reflection of their owners – some good some bad. But are usually very sensitive to clues from other people… Read more »

Karyl Redmond, LPN
5 years ago

I think that, once established that the pet will be safe in said environment, there is no reason that the pet shouldn’t be brought in. I have worked in settings, with and without access to pets, and have found that my patients are much more willing to work with staff if they have had a chance to visit with a pet. I don’t know about long term stays, due to some of the above mentioned issues, i.e. allergies, but I definitely think that dogs and even cats should be a part of a patient’s health care, especially if it is… Read more »

Karen Huhn
17 days ago

Dogs should always be allowed with patients, there calming effect is better than xanax.

Gina RN
2 months ago

As an ICU nurse and the owner of a service dog, I have seen first hand the benefits of having a service/therapy dog. They have immense power to heal and soothe those in need (if properly trained) In a hospital setting we have guidelines and protocols that dictate how we handle situations. We also base our care/treatment off of evidenced based practice. I have yet to see an article that actually studied transmission of hospital acquired infections from therapy dogs, however, there are a number on how our human counter parts transmit by not adhering to infection control protocol. Therefore,… Read more »

3 years ago

I trained as a nurse to assist patients to get better. I do believe that pets can make patients feel better. but as someone who is allergic to dogs. I don’t believe it is ok to expect me to take care of people who are bringing animals to my workplace that I am allergic to. Will those families be paying for my medications, or trips to the allergist so I can continue to take care of them?

Mary Ann
4 years ago

I read the article and it very interesting. I have always been a dog lover and have a dog most of my life. One portion of the article concerned the dirtiness of the paws. There are such things as shoes for dogs. It wails not be inconceivable for a dog owner or the hospital to provide disposable shoes for the dog to have changed between patients. After all that’s what humans do going from surgery room to surgery room. The dogs could also be given a gown to wear if going to different rooms, just like humans. It’s not a… Read more »

4 years ago

No. In the acute care setting it is not appropriate. We had a patient with an infection, with his own “therapy dog”. He then would take the dog out to the grass & back in. It would jump on people & run in the hall. Maybe a rehab facility would be okay.

Becky LPN 2
4 years ago

In the movie starring Matt Damon:We bought a zoo, the question was asked,which do you like better,people or animals ? the answer was “people”,me too replied the questioner. Our whole family nodded and applaud when we saw,(were a very large medical family).

Becky LPN 2
4 years ago

In the words of Matt Damon movie “we bought a Zoo”…. the one character asked the other, “which do you like better,people or animals?” the character asked said,people.”me too” said the questioner.

5 years ago

I feel that if a pet is clean, vaccinated and minds his or her manners it does indeed help the psyche of patients. many of my patients are deemed “untouchable” due to horrific wounds……it is nice to think our friends with fur don’t care, they just love. I have read many of the statements above, I think it is wise if the parents of the furry friends must make sure the patient or staff wants the affection of their friend. of course they must be on a leash, that is a must. I feel folks feel more at home and… Read more »

5 years ago

Please! I see patients in their homes and regularly have to tell them it is not ok for their dogs to climb on me, scratch me, or put their head between my legs. Can’t we leave the animals out of the healthcare setting?

C Jones
5 years ago

No, I do not think dogs , or yes even cats, I’ve seen should be allowed in hospitals or rehab centers, unless an individual has to use as seeing eye dog. Some individuals are very allergic, and it have a fear of dogs, and some is to try to provide best environment for healing/recovery. I personally am not a huge animal lover, if you like a gig and want one that’s fine have one, but when it is brought into my place of work, and I happen to be scheduled to be working with said patient at that time, I… Read more »

J Makem
5 years ago

Of course dogs should be allowed in!!! Why do we allow kids in? You show me one infection that can be traced back to a dog. The have lived with people for centuries. I have never seen anything so stupid as how the US discriminates against dogs (and cats for that matter) In Germany they are allowed everywhere. WAKE UP! Dear loss for words: you are more dangerous to a patient than a dog.

5 years ago


Nancy preston
5 years ago

Yes, of course dogs should be allowed in hospitals. Dog’s bring comfort and love

Kell Brigan
3 months ago

Reduced stress, my ass. Not for EVERYBODY ELSE.

Raven Kim
1 year ago

The repetitive “no one ever thinks of those with allergies” proves that it is thought of & discussed often. As a RN and mental health counselor, my area of research in my doctoral pursuit has involved dog/human interactions. Research over the past 2 decades has been consistent. Studies from epidemiology clearly indicate no rise in infection rate in hospitals that have service and or companion dog programs. To answer the issue of allergies or those who simply do not care for exposure to animals there can easily be sections of rooms designated. There is no insensitivity to those with allergic… Read more »

2 years ago

As a person who is extremely allergic to animals, this is a major concern. Animals provide comfort to people, but what about people with life-threatening allergies? Why should a person with severe allergies to animals have to worry about getting sicker in a hospital?

4 years ago

I am a nurse highly allergic to dogs and cats. No one seems to consider that. Allergic reactions can make you very ill and often be fatel.
Sorry, animals should not be allowed in so many public places.

4 years ago

Very simple equation: BENEFITS OUTWEIGH RISKS! Just like a multitude of meds we administer to our patients!

4 years ago

A friend of mine was in the hospital dying. His closest companions were his dogs. The nurse said the dogs could visit if their shots were up to date and the vet confirmed this. This man was so happy to see his dogs, who, by the way were brought up through the maintenance entrance. After the visit, my friend said, “Ok, I’m ready.” That was a blessing to witness, and it was so thoughtful of the nurse who made it possible.

Emily Rosario
4 years ago

I love dogs, I own 4, and call them my 4 legged children. However, I am still torn about them in hospitals. Yes, interacting with dogs benefit the patients. My worry is infection control. I am not worried about the dogs giving something to a patient. I worried that as they go from room to room they may spread an infection from patient to patient. I have seen family members bring the patients dogs to visit them, and it definitely lifts their spirits. But I also see the dog laying on the hospital floor, or even worse decide to lay… Read more »

Kathryn Allen
4 years ago

I agree that therapy dogs , K9 dogs and family dogs should be able to be in hospitals. Look at some of the visitors who enter our doors!

Tim Tobin
4 years ago

some of the comments are amazing to me. I entered hospice care 11 years ago with the express purpose of doing whatever it takes to keep my patient comfortable and help them have the best rest of their life that they can have. And we frequently use animals to accomplish that. All the nonsense of an animal spreading diseases is just that nonsense! Allergies is a thing, but if one really cares about the comfort and quality of care of their patients they will open their eyes and help the patient achieve a quality of life!

Diane RN
4 years ago

Yes, dogs should be allowed in hospitals. Dogs have been found to have wonderful effects on both patients and staff. Our hospital allows therapy dog visits and has guidelines for their handlers to follow, such as no isolation rooms and asking the patient if they would like a furry visitor. Proper hand washing after touching the pup is followed by both the staff and patients. Everyone enjoys the visits, especially the pediatric unit.

4 years ago

I think in the right situation it is a definite benefit!!! Yes we need to be sensitive to everyone else’s views; but the animals are a positive addition to anyone’s day. I always smile when I go into Home depot or Lowe’s and I see someone’s dog in the cart. The dogs are always well behaved and are eager to get a pat on the head from everyone who walks by. Patient’s need a distraction form why they are there sometimes and a visit from a dog is just what is needed. I had my own personal experience with this… Read more »

5 years ago

I think they do serve a purpose in certain settings. People in hospitals now a days are very ill, I don’t think they need dogs around if they are roaming freely. If they are brought in by a handler who will assess the situation first, then perhaps. Also that handler will keep an eye on their behaviors. I am an animal lover to the max but they are animals….they can still resort to animal behaviors, despite how domesticated they are. And some times you don’t even know what set them off. And when it comes to getting food or water… Read more »

5 years ago

I am very allergic to dogs and cats. I was at the VA a week ago when a vet with a therapy dog entered the waiting area. I had to leave the room because I started wheezing and sneezing. That was just one incident I’ve experienced. Cats and dogs seem to be everywhere, hotels, grocery stores and the mall. i have to keep my Epi Pen with everywhere I go because I never know.

5 years ago

Have we lost our minds?? What about patients with allergies to dogs… even if briefly exposed? Dogs lick their butt and then the patient…I am at a loss for words. ?