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 http://www.zacharyspawsforhealing.com or ask if there is a PAWS program at your local hospital.