By June Frazier
It is a well-known fact that the presence of a dog can help relieve pain, aid healing and bring an incredible sense of happiness to patients at hospitals.
But some people worry about the risks visiting animals may pose to other patients by potentially transmitting disease or frightening other patients.
Which brings us to the question: Should hospitals let dogs visit their owners?
Nurses see benefits
A survey conducted with 750 nurses found that more than half of these nurses had worked with animals at some point in their career. And 82 percent of these nurses said that the animals, dogs to be precise, encouraged their patients to be more physically active, while over 60 percent stated that the presence of the dogs in the hospital helped to speed up their patients’ physical recovery. These animals help to boost the mental and physical health of patients confined to hospital beds.
Even so, one in every four nurses said that all animals were banned from accessing the hospitals, on the grounds that they could spread infection.
According to SHEA (Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America), little is known about the role that dogs have in spreading diseases and bacteria. Still, hospitals have stringent health and safety policies for animal visitation programs. Mostly, these visits are limited to service dogs, trained therapy dogs, research dogs and therapy dogs.
Although dog visits have their benefits, the welfare of other people in the hospital should be considered. For instance, pit bulls visiting their owners may have therapeutic benefits to their patients, but the presence of the dogs may fall short in protecting other people in the hospital.
Concerns about dogs in hospitals
- Not everyone likes dogs
- Some patients may be allergic to dogs
- Some dogs may bite or be very aggressive
- The dogs may transmit diseases to people with weakened immune systems.
That’s why Britain’s Royal College of Nurses is working to create a national protocol that will encourage hospitals to allow dogs into their facilities. They noted that most hospitals were reluctant to allow dogs either due to fear of infection or other patients being frightened. This protocol will set out the considerations that will be made before a dog is allowed into a hospital, including how to manage the risk of infections.
Although the nurses said that the concerns about dogs spreading infections could be managed, it is important for hospitals to come up with policies that safeguard themselves, the participating animals and their patients. Failing to follow strict health and safety policies can put other people at risk.
Hospitals need guidelines for dogs
- Ensure dogs are up-to-date on all vaccines and immunizations including rabies.
- Enure the dog’s temperament is suitable for the hospital environment. Aggressive or disruptive dogs should not be allowed to visit.
- Ensure dogs are properly trained and respond quickly to commands.
- Ensure the dog is well-groomed to remove loose hair, extra dander and any fleas or ticks.
- Ensure dog is accompanied by a responsible adult.
- Keep dogs away from neutropenic patients or invasive devices such as catheters of IVs.
- Ensure dogs are at least a year old and housebroken.
Hospitals need to ensure they have strong policies in place to create a conducive environment for their patients and visiting animals.
June Frazier is the founder of TobysBone, where she shares her passion for writing and love for dogs. She wants to help you deal with your dog’s behavior issues, grooming and health needs, and proper training. On her blog, you can find informative and reliable posts, tips and tricks, that will help you maintain a close bond with your furry companion.