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.

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DSW

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 »

Max Sayer

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.

NC

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 »

ANNA PIQUETTE

I FOR ONE FEEL THAT PETS SHOULD BE ALLOWED IN THE HOSPITALS AND SNF’S. AS A NURSE IN THE PED’S ED I SAW THE COMFORT THE PETS WOULD BRING TO THE PATIENTS WHEN THEY CAME AROUND NOT TO MENTION THE STRESS RELIEF IT HAD ON THE NURSES.
AND AS A PATIENT MYSELF, I SO LOOKED FORWARD TO THE VISIT OF MY GOLDN RETRIEVER WHEN I WAS IN THE HOSPITAL FOR REHAB. IT WAS THE HIGH LIGHT OF MY DAY KNOWING SHE WAS COMING TO SEE ME.
YES ,YES, YES, THEY SHOULD BE ALLOWED IN THE FACILITIES.

BEVERLY A KLEINKNECHT

YES FAMILY MEMBER THE FAMILY IS ALWAYS WELCOME HELLO

austin

YUP DO IT MAKE EM IN IT

Frances Childress

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.

PS

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?

Kay Kellen

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.

Sue

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 »

ETHEL

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.

Tracy

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

Robin

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

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

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!

Mary Ann

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 »

Tim Tobin

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!

Jeanette

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.

Tiffany, RN

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 »

N. Horvath

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 »

Diane RN

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.

Danielle

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 »

Becky LPN 2

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

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.

Diannalyn

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

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

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!

Terri

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 »

Lora

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 »

Betty

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 »

Linda

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?

DAVID GAINES

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.

Karyl Redmond, LPN

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 »

Joyce

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.

Carolyn

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.

C Jones

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

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.

Nancy preston

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

Raven Kim

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 »

Taylor

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?

Dolores

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. ?