What Is Animal Assisted Therapy/Animal Assisted Activity and How Does It Work in Hospitals?

Animal Assisted Therapy is a structured program that involves the therapeutic use of animals in a patient’s healing or palliative care. That animals possess healing properties is not new.   But the presence of therapeutic dogs in healthcare institutional settings still turns heads. While some long-term care and hospice facilities have dogs on the premises (often a staff member’s dog), many facilities don’t have a structured program in place with specific therapeutic objectives for a patient’s treatment plan. Terri is a Certified Human Animal Intervention Specialist (CHAIS), from the Oakland University School of Nursing.  From this perspective and knowledge base, Moss Communications assists healthcare facilities in all phases of designing and implementing Animal Assisted Therapy programs based on our 19 years of experience in this field.

Animal Assisted Activity (AAA) programs, often referred to as animal visitation programs, are becoming more common.  The animals and handlers in AAA programs must be screened, oriented, and trained to visit with patients but the requirements for handlers and dogs are less rigorous than for teams involved in Animal Assisted Therapy programs.  What is often lacking in established AAA programs is ongoing evaluation of these teams to ensure their patient visitation is appropriate, safe and documented.

 The Best Low Cost, High Reward Program Aroundcropped-caliastp-e1421357110723.jpg

Animal Assisted Therapy/Animal Assisted Activity is an inexpensive program that yields measurable (and intangible) rewards including improved patient experience and staff satisfaction. Hospitals looking for measurable ways to improve their HHCAPS scores need look no further than adding an Animal Assisted Therapy/Animal Assisted Activity Program. It is a low cost (volunteer-driven), high yield program that can be easily and quickly implemented in any facility.

 The Healing Benefits of Animal Assisted Therapy/ Animal Assisted Activity

 An effective Animal Assisted Therapy/Animal Assisted Activity program brings genuine healing to patients, stress reduction to their families as well as staff. The mere presence of a dog:

  • Significantly improves blood pressure, heart rate and salivary immunoglobulin-A levels (the marker for immune system health)
  • Reduces anxiety and stress, particularly in oncology patients, allowing the body to expend more energy on physical recovery
  • Drastically reduces (up to 50%) chemo patients’ need for pain medication
  • Lessens the severity of psychiatric patients’ experience of depression and anxiety and improves patients’ outlook on life and self esteem
  • Offers many physical therapeutic uses to increase mobility, strength, and range of motion, in the case of Animal Assisted Therapy programs