Numerous studies show that our pets make us healthier and happier, and can even help us heal faster. That’s why a growing number of hospitals are now allowing long-term patients to have visits from family pets. Studies show it’s calming and reassuring to have visits from the whole family, and a lot of people consider their pets to be family. 

Pet visits are organized by groups like PAWS, which is short for Pets Are Wonderful Support, and Healing Paws, which deals with pediatric patients. Visiting dogs must be at least 12-weeks old, potty-trained, and vaccinated. They must have a health certificate from a veterinarian and must be freshly bathed. Patients also need to get permission from their doctor. If everything’s okayed, a volunteer will meet the dog at the hospital entrance for a “behavior check," to make sure they’re calm enough for a hospital environment, before taking them to the patient’s room. And so far, so good. 

The Methodist Hospital System in Texas has allowed visits for more than a decade, and they’ve never had any incidents or infections. And in some cases, a pet visit can make the difference in a patient’s survival. Like for one 83-year-old woman with cancer in intensive care who wasn’t eating, wasn’t responding, and had literally given up. But when volunteers put her dog on her bed, she started talking and eating and was eventually able to go home. If you’d like to find a pet-visitation group in your area or start your own chapter of PAWS, check out the website www.Shanti.org.