Tag Archives: therapy dogs

The companionship of dogs helps kids undergoing cancer treatment

Although survival rates for children diagnosed with cancer have increased dramatically over the past 40 years, hard evidence of proven psychosocial benefits to improve quality of life among patients and families during treatment has remained elusive.

Many hospitals have therapy dogs who visit with patients, and anecdotal evidence underscores the positive impact these programs have on children with cancer and their families.

Preliminary findings from a new, multi-center trial provides some of the first quantitative data to validate these claims.  The study, to be presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference & Exhibition in Washington, DC, collected data on blood pressure, pulse rates and anxiety levels of children before and after a weekly visit from a therapy dog. During the visits, children pet or talk to the dog, brush its fur, view the dog’s photos, watch the dog practicing tricks or commands, and learn about dog breeds.

Photo courtesy of University of Texas Health Science Center

Photo courtesy of University of Texas Health Science Center

Preliminary findings show that blood pressure readings in the group receiving animal-assisted interventions remains more stable across all sessions than in the control group, said lead researcher Amy McCullough, Ph.D., National Director of Humane Research and Therapy for the American Humane Association. Similarly, there was a higher degree of variability in heart rate within the control group patients than with the treatment group patients.

“These findings suggest that the dog may have a calming effect on the patient,” Dr. McCullough said.

In addition to the effects on pulse and heart rate to date, preliminary results indicate the canine encounters appear to improve anxiety levels among parents. Parents in the control group report fluctuating anxiety levels with peaks and valleys; parents in the treatment group show more consistency in anxiety levels, and even a small decline in anxiety levels by the end of their participating in the study. Overall, children in both groups saw a decrease in anxiety over the course of their study enrollment. Researchers are also gauging the therapy dogs’ temperament and behavior during the visits.

“This study will be a milestone in understanding of the benefits of the vital bond shared between people and animals,” Dr. McCullough said.

Source:  American Academy of Pediatrics media release

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Even a short visit can improve the day

Snowy and Mum

A dog doesn’t have to be a certified therapy dog to brighten someone’s day – it just needs to be well-trained and sociable.

Here is Snowy, a Labradoodle, with my Mum.  Snowy lives next door and makes visits for cuddles and treats (but especially treats).

If you have elderly people in your neighborhood, consider reaching out to them with your well-behaved dog.  A visit by a friendly dog can really brighten the day.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

Norbert: the little therapy dog with a series of books

Norbert

Norbert shows his High Five (photo courtesy of Norberthood.com)

Norbert is a special therapy dog.  He’s a very tiny (3-pound) cross-breed who was the only puppy born to his dog mother in California.  His owners believe he is a Chihuahua, Cairn Terrier  and Lhasa Apso cross.  Adopted in 2009 from PetFinder.com, Norbert was his human mother’s first-ever dog and he traveled to Boston to live with her.

At the age of one, he passed his therapy dog tests and began working with children and the elderly. Along the way he learned new tricks like High Five, Namaste (stay) and Zen (lie down).

Then his mom decided to write a book, and then another, and (soon) another….

Book 1: Norbert - What can little me do?

Book 1: Norbert – What can little me do?

Book 2: Norbert - What can little you do?

Book 2: Norbert – What can little you do?

Book 3 (due out in November 2015): Norbert & Lil Bub - What can little we do?

Book 3 (due out in November 2015): Norbert & Lil Bub – What can little we do?

Therapy dogs are special dogs providing important emotional support services to those in need.  I like the fact that there are children’s books featuring Norbert – if we tell children about dogs and their personalities, and teach them lessons along the way, we set them up to be compassionate adults who are prepared to be responsible pet owners.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

A therapy dog to help mourners

Say ‘therapy dog’ and most people will think of hospitals, rest homes, and mental health services.  Some may also think about dogs supporting witnesses when they have their day in court….but now there’s a growing use of therapy dogs in funeral homes.

This video, from the Ballard-Durand funeral home in New York, promotes Lulu, a Goldendoodle, who can be booked on request for funeral services.

The loss of a loved one and funerals, in general, are times of great emotional stress.  How nice it is that dogs are offering comfort in these situations and that they are being accepted by professional funeral directors.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

Therapy dog helps woman testify at court hearing

This post is definitely filed under the heading of Special Dogs & Awards.  Another example of how our dogs can work with us and for us…. A courtroom therapy dog named Paz, a Labradoodle, has helped a woman testify in court about her multiple assaults and captivity, an ordeal endured with her 5-year old daughter. It is the first time a judge has allowed a therapy dog in court to support an adult (rather than a child).

 The appearance on Tuesday of Paz, a therapy dog, in a New York City courtroom to help an adult witness testify was said to be unprecedented. Credit Kevin Hagen for The New York Times

The appearance on Tuesday of Paz, a therapy dog, in a New York City courtroom to help an adult witness testify was said to be unprecedented. Credit Kevin Hagen for The New York Times

More details about this story in the New York Times link below. Well done, Paz, and may you continue to provide support to this woman – no one deserves that kind of treatment.  And kudos to the judge who recognized the value of the dog to the court’s proceedings. Source:  New York Times

Infection control guidelines for animal visitation

The use of dogs in hospitals and other therapy institutions is on the rise, as more medical professionals acknowledge the positive effects of dogs on human patients.

New expert guidance by the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) outlines recommendations for developing policies regarding the use of animals in healthcare facilities, including animal-assisted activities, service animals, research animals and personal pet visitation in acute care hospitals.

The guidance was published online in Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology, the journal of SHEA.

“Animals have had an increasing presence in healthcare facilities,” said David Weber, MD, MPH, a lead author of the recommendations. “While there may be benefits to patient care, the role of animals in the spread of bacteria is not well understood. We have developed standard infection prevention and control guidance to help protect patients and healthcare providers via animal-to-human transmission in healthcare settings.”

Guidance is grouped by the role of animals – animal-assisted activities (i.e., pet therapy and volunteer programs), service animals, research animals and personal pet visitation. Select recommendations include:

Animal-Assisted Activities

  • Facilities should develop a written policy for animal-assisted activities. An animal-assisted activity visit liaison should be designated.
  • Allow only dogs to serve in animal-assisted activities, such as pet therapy.
  • Animals and handlers should be formally trained and evaluated.
  • Animal interaction areas should be determined in collaboration with the Infection Prevention and Control team and clinical staff should be educated about the program.
  • Animal handlers must have all required immunizations, restrict contact of their animal to patient(s) visited and prevent the animal from having contact with invasive devices, and require that everyone who touches the animal to practice hand hygiene before and after contact.
  • The hospital should maintain a log of all animal-assisted activities visits including rooms and persons visited for potential contact tracing.

Service Animals

  • The policy allowing service animals of patients and visitors into the facility should be compliant with the Federal Americans for Disability Act (ADA), other applicable state and local regulations and include a statement that only dogs and miniature horses are recognized as Service Animals under federal law.
  • If an inpatient has a service animal, notification should be made to the Infection Prevention and Control Team, followed by discussion with the patient to make sure the owner of the service animal complies with institutional policies.
  • Healthcare providers or staff may ask the patient or visitor to describe what work/tasks the dog performs for the patient, but may not ask for a “certification” or “papers.”

Personal Pet Visitation

  • Pets should, in general, be prohibited from entering the healthcare facility.
  • Exceptions can be considered if the healthcare team determines that visitation with a pet would be of benefit to the patient and can be performed with limited risk. Even then, visitation should be restricted to dogs.
  • The patient must perform hand hygiene immediately before and after contact with the animal.

The authors of the guidance also note that as the role of animals in healthcare evolves, there is a need for stronger research to establish evidence-based guidelines to manage the risk to patients and healthcare providers.

This guidance on animals in healthcare facilities has been endorsed by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC), the leading professional association for infection preventionists with more than 15,000 members.

Source:  EurekAlert! media release

Previous blogs about therapy dogs include:

The Dog in the Hospital

Great story from The Boston Globe which shows dogs are medicine for the soul.  In this article (linked below), read about Mike Hurley and his therapy dog, Dexter.  This pair worked behind the scenes with Boston bombing victims and their families and continue to spread cheer amongst patients at the Center.

Photo by Suzanne Kreiter, Boston Globe

Photo by Suzanne Kreiter, Boston Globe

The Dog in the Hospital – Metro – The Boston Globe.