Therapy Dogs

What could be cuter and more beneficial to patients than a team of six Golden Retriever therapy dogs showing kids how to undergo procedures?

Jessie having echocardiogram-1

Therapy dog, Jessie, undergoes an echocardiogram while being comforted by ‘Mom’, who is holding her paw.

At Southampton Children’s Hospital in the UK, the therapy dogs help the pediatric patients overcome their anxiety and fear by providing support ranging from general meet-and-greet style Animal Assisted Activity visits to Animal Assisted Therapy. The therapy dogs assist in physiotherapy, speech and occupational therapy, phlebotomy services and injections, radiology investigations, and by supporting children in the anaesthetic room.

leo on mri scanner

Leo demonstrating laying down in an MRI scanner.

One of the reasons therapy dogs are so helpful is that they are nonjudgmental and take the healthcare environment in stride. They don’t cajole or persuade, and I am sure that is why the children sometimes trust them more than the people who are with them. Every parent and medical staff member is trying to get the procedure done, which is why using the dogs as a bridge between the healthcare team and the child is so very useful. As a volunteer, it has been a privilege to be able to develop this service for the hospital.

I am delighted to say that we have images and videos that enable us to assist the medical staff even when we are not there! The library of pictures and videos that the staff can show the children when they are anxious includes such things as:

  • A short film, ‘Leo goes to X-ray,’ showing therapy dog, Leo, going to the X-ray department and explaining how easy it is to have a radiology investigation, whether it is a plain film X-ray or CT/MRI scan.  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vb8kIU4y9H4)
  • A video of a therapy dog heading down to theatre after admission procedure and showing what the route to theatre looks like as well as showing the anaesthetic room.
  • As well as many adorable and helpful photos.
archie investigations collage

Archie demonstrating, from top left, a thermometer to the arm, stethoscope to the chest, SATS testing, and pulse oximitry on a paw.

You can see more in this report on yahoo! news.

 

 

Have you ever worked with therapy dogs? If so, what was your experience like? Comment below, or, AIUM members, continue the conversation on Connect, the AIUM’s online community.

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Lyndsey Uglow is the Lead Animal Assisted Intervention Handler at Southampton Children’s Hospital Therapy Dogs.

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