The Best Medicine: Pets Visit Hospitalized Owners

By Nancy LaFever / Posted on 13 June 2013

Pets Visit Hospitalized OwnersAnyone who loves a pet knows their powerful, positive energy and huge role they play in our lives. Studies show that being around animals is also good for both physical and mental well-being. As a N.Y. Times New Old Age blog post reports, hospitals are taking note and beginning to allow pets to visit their hospitalized owners. Different from trained pet therapy dogs that often visit medical facilities, some hospitals are even permitting overnight stays, especially with hospice patients.

The post described a 74-year-old patient in a Florida hospital suffering from pneumonia and having serious hallucinations. Her husband made a plan with his wife’s doctor to allow the family dog to visit in an attempt to help calm and soothe the patient. The dog ran to the patient and her husband said, “It was a turning point. From that point on, she seemed to take a turn for the better.” The hospital made an exception in this case and like most, has a no-pet policy.

Requirements for Pet Visits
In order to keep a hospital room sanitary and safe, there are strict requirements in the facilities that permit pet visits. A doctor’s order is required, as is proof from the vet that the pet is healthy and immunized. Some hospitals require the pet to be groomed before the visit and to be on a leash when not in patients’ rooms. Cats must be confined to a carrier in transit. If in a double room, the other patient must consent to the visit. One hospital, University of Maryland Medical Center has had a “your pet can visit” policy since 2008 and reports never having any issues.

There definitely is a trend towards more institutions becoming pet-friendly. Assisted living communities are reporting that a growing number of prospective residents ask if pets are allowed. Recognizing that leaving a beloved furry family member behind when moving into a facility is a major emotional hurdle, many communities are changing the rules about keeping pets. Although there are restrictions on number and size, residents may bring up to two small pets.


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