Health Care Lifestyle

Therapy Dogs Can Help Relieve Stress When You’re in the Hospital

Service Dog
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Being displaced from your home for medical care or rehabilitation comes with its own set of physical, emotional and spiritual stresses — all of which can negatively influence your recovery, response to treatment and overall well-being.

Enter Fido.

A dog’s cold nose, warmth and enthusiasm can make you feel secure and cared for in almost any environment. That’s why therapy dogs have become an important part of health-care teams worldwide. The support they provide can improve your overall hospital experience, and positively impact your whole health.

Physiologically speaking, simply playing with a therapy dog can help decrease your pain, respiratory rate and fatigue. These sweet companions can also soothe your worried mind, and lift your spirits.

What Are Therapy Dogs?

Usually working alongside their owners, therapy dogs are pets that receive special training to help meet the unique needs of the patients they’re helping. There are three types:

Therapeutic Visitation Dogs

The most common type of therapy dog is the therapeutic visitation dog. These dogs are family pets trained to give comfort, affection and emotional support to people within their community. They often visit patients in hospitals, nursing homes, retirement homes, rehabilitation centers and schools.

Animal Assisted Therapy Dogs

Specifically trained to help physical and occupational therapists in reaching their patient’s individual recovery goals, animal assisted therapy dogs (AATs) can help you gain motion in your limbs, assist with your fine motor control and hand-eye coordination.

They are also sometimes used in school settings to help children with social or emotional difficulties. AAT dogs provide sense of calm that quietly encourages the child as they move through the school day.

Facility Therapy Dogs

Facility therapy dogs usually work and live fulltime at nursing home facilities. They work directly with staff members — who are trained handlers — to keep patients with Alzheimer’s disease or other mental disorders out of dangerous situations. For example, facility therapy dogs will alert staff members when patients require help.

What’s the Difference Between Therapy and Service Dogs?

You may be surprised to learn that therapy and service dogs have uniquely different roles. While therapy dogs assist in an emotional support role for individuals other than their owners, a service dog is trained to meet the specific needs of its owner exclusively, such as:

  • Diabetes
  • Mobility Challenges
  • Seizure Disorders
  • Visual or Hearing Difficulties

Service dogs allow their owners to be more independent, attaining a level of safety they couldn’t have on their own.

There are also differences in where these canines are permitted. Therapy dogs are welcomed in hospitals, rehabilitation centers and schools (once certified and pre-arranged with the institution), but are not permitted in public places that normally don’t allow animals, such as airplanes, grocery stores, department stores, doctor offices, restaurants, schools, work places and hotels. Service dogs, on the other hand, are welcomed in all.

Find Out More

Service dog owners must have a qualified disability limiting his or her ability to perform certain tasks on their own. If you have a disability and are interested in getting a service dog, speak with your physician for additional resources for getting a service dog for your type of disability.

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