The Benefits of Hospice Therapy Dogs Are Enormous.

According to the latest data, approximately 42 percent of all U.S. hospices offer some form of alternative medicine and end-of-life care services – such as massages or pet therapy. One of the alternative therapies that I found very interesting is the use of hospice therapy dogs with hospice patients.

At an Ohio Conference there was a lab that was the hit of the event. She and her handler are part of an organization that works with Hospices, SNFs, ALFs, hospitals, and a variety of other settings. The dog, “her name will be withheld”  to protect her from overwhelming fan-mail, was taken from an abusive home. She was trained to be a therapy dog and today is one of the most loving, amiable dogs I’ve ever encountered. I wondered if I could take her home with me, but her handler kept a pretty close eye on her. Apparently I wasn’t the only one who had that thought.

One of the questions I had is whether there is a breed that is better suited to be a therapy dog. The answer seems to be a resounding no. The dogs used in therapy are animals that are calm, have good social skills and are willing to interact with individuals that they don’t know. They also have to be able to work within an environment that may have medical equipment around them.

The link below talks about the physiological responses to visits made by the therapy dogs and a volunteer in comparison to those only visited by a volunteer. The difference in the anxiety of patients was pretty significant. We thought our (human) smiles had the ability to brighten someone’s day, but it turns out our four-legged friends bring a whole new level of joy.

Hospice Therapy Dogs
Despite the effects that a therapy dog can have on an individual, they aren’t considered service dogs. They do not have the same rights and privileges, defined by ADA, as service dogs do. Interesting, considering the benefits that they provide.

Are you currently offering this type of therapy? If so, what have you personally found as a result of using therapy dogs? If not, is it something you’ve considered?

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