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Dogs Visit Hospitalized Guardians
New policy benefits patients

Dog lovers have long known that being able to spend time with their dogs when they are ill makes them feel better, no matter what health issues they are facing. Yet, it’s only been in recent years that pets have been able to visit them officially in hospitals. Many hospitals have rejected such healing opportunities because of concerns related to liability or infection risk, although a few forward thinking facilities have allowed pet visitation for over a decade.

After three years of a process that involved discussion about logistical issues, cleanliness and potential costs, Rush University Medical Center in Chicago became one of the few hospitals that allows pet visitation. Their policy that lets dogs or cats visit patients’ rooms began last December. Other facilities in the area had previously allowed pet visitation in other areas such as the lobby.

Because many people understood the value of pet visits, there had been many cases of staff feigning ignorance while friends or relatives smuggled pets in at odd hours to see patients. Now there’s a policy in place that allows dogs and cats to visit as long as certain criteria are met. These include approval of the attending physician, proof of rabies vaccination and a bath and brushing for the pet prior to the visit. The pet is not allowed any contact with other patients.

Have you ever been visited by a pet at a hospital or helped facilitate such a visit?

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Karen B. London, PhD, is a Bark columnist and a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist specializing in the evaluation and treatment of serious behavior problems in the domestic dog.

photo by Mary Lee Hahn/Flickr

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Submitted by Anonymous | March 30 2013 |

My son and husband were very seriously injured when on vacation in Oregon. They were in the hospital for 6 days. Our dog was allowed to visit every day and even sleep on me in the cot in my son's room. It calmed him so much and reduced everyone's issues during such a scary time!

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