For people that have pets, they are more than just an animal, they are a companion, a best friend and most important, family. They are there to greet you when you come home and provide comfort, love and support. For those of you that love dogs, you may have a chance to see a pet therapy dog while you are a patient or visitor at the Windom Area Hospital.

The goal of our pet therapy program is to ease stress, fear or anxiety some patients and visitors may feel when visiting or in the hospital. Mayo Clinic states, “animal-assisted therapy can reduce pain and anxiety in people with a range of health problems.” There are numerous benefits to the human-animal bond. According to PAWS for People, a non-profit that provides pet therapy, Animal Assisted Therapy has the following benefits:

Physical Health:

  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Improved cardiovascular health
  • Release endorphins that provide a calming effect
  • Decrease overall physical pain, reducing the amount of medication some patients need
  • Relaxation (petting produces a relaxation response in the body)

Mental Health:

  • Lifted spirits and lessened depression or anxiety
  • Decreased feelings of loneliness, isolation and alienation
  • Improved communication and socialization
  • Reduced boredom
  • Motivation for the patient to recover faster
  • In dementia patients, visiting with animals may recover memories of their own pet

Both the dog and the handler are carefully screened before participating in our pet therapy program. First, the dog must pass an obedience test at the hospital. Besides testing obedience skills, the instructor goes through different scenarios the duo could encounter in a hospital environment. This includes approaching a patient in a wheelchair, walking by a pile of dirty linen, resisting food left on a patient tray, and sitting by a chair or bed in a patient room. After passing the obedience test, the dog and handler must present documentation that they are up-to-date on all required vaccinations. Then the handler goes through a fingerprint-based background check and has volunteer training with hospital staff. We have strict guidelines to protect our patients, visitors, dogs and handlers.

If you have a calm, friendly and obedient dog and are interested in pet therapy testing and guidelines for visits, please contact Kim Armstrong at 831-0615 or [email protected].

Blog Written By: Kim Armstrong, Pet Therapy Coordinator

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