Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Health & Balance

Font Size

Hospital Pet Programs Unleash Healing Powers

Medscape Medical News

March 8, 2013 -- A small but growing number of U.S. hospitals are expanding their visitation policies to allow supervised visits from furry family members.

Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, one of the latest hospitals to adopt a visiting policy for pets, had its first patient-owned pet visit in February. Sadie the dachshund climbed onto the lap of her owner, Bernadette Slesinski-Evans, who from her hospital bed happily let her dog lick her face.

The visit took less than two days for staff to arrange, but the policy took almost three years to develop, says Diane Gallagher, RN, associate vice president of nursing operations at Rush. The challenge, she says, "was how to make the policy safe for patients, employees, and visitors without making it burdensome to implement."

"When you say 'hospital and dog,' it doesn't sound like it fits," Gallagher says. "The hospital is not a resort, but this is a therapeutic intervention. It's one more tool we have to help patients get through what must be some of their worst days."

Or in some cases, the patient's final days. Slesinski-Evans died weeks after her visit with Sadie. "I feel so lucky we were able to do this for her," Gallagher says.

She believes pet visiting programs, although becoming more common, are still controversial because not everyone likes animals or thinks they should be in a hospital. When she surveyed hospitals nationwide in 2010, Rush says she heard from only 12 hospitals that have similar programs.

Benefits to Patients

Citing extensive research showing that patients feel hope and joy from being near their pets, Gallagher says the benefit to the patient is worth the risks of a pet visit in the hospital. "It takes their mind off their stress and anxiety," she says.

Many studies have shown both physical and psychological good effects of animal-assisted therapy. Reported benefits include lowered blood pressure, less pain, more happiness, and motivation to get better, a review in the American Journal of Critical Care shows. Supporters of pet visitation programs, however, say hospitals need to go beyond long-standing policies of having therapy dogs, because patients prefer to see their own pets.

1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Today on WebMD

woman in yoga class
6 health benefits of yoga.
beautiful girl lying down of grass
10 relaxation techniques to try.
mature woman with glass of water
Do you really need to drink 8 glasses of water a day?
coffee beans in shape of mug
Get the facts.
Take your medication
Hand appearing to hold the sun
Hungover man
Welcome mat and wellington boots
Woman worn out on couch
Happy and sad faces
Fingertip with string tied in a bow
laughing family