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Did you know that Orlando Health has a Pet Therapy Program?

April 7th, 2018

Lothair, a deaf therapy dog that owner Melanie Paul takes to Langley AFB weekly, waits to be petted by patient Rebecca Bennett – Jordan as Steven Jordan watches. Bennett – Jordan enjoyed the visit and the couple has three cats. Paul says this is the first deaf therapy dog that understands/uses American Sign Language. (Judith Lowery / Daily Press)

In our December 2017 blog, we brought some information about Pets and Mental Health, pointing that many clinical settings are opening their doors to animal-assisted interventions. Today, we would like to share with you an ongoing initiative in the Orlando Health System: the Pet Therapy Program.

A therapy dog is the one that might be trained to provide affection, comfort and love to people in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, schools, hospices, disaster areas, and to people with anxiety disorders or autism.  The main purpose of the Pet Therapy Program in the Orlando Health System is to make a positive impact in the lives of patients through animal-assisted activities and animal-assisted therapy, greeting patients, family members, and hospital staff.

The participating dogs are accompanied by volunteers that must have a good control of them. All dogs must be bathed 24 hours prior to their visit. Usually, the total duration of a pet therapy visiting session at an adult hospital is between 1 and 2 hours. Visits should be limited to a reasonable amount of time so that to prevent animal stress and/or fatigue.  If animals demonstrate any sign of tension or tiredness, they are immediately removed from the client’s room. Clients and dogs can interact closely, as dogs may be placed on a bed of a client who has requested or given permission. Sometimes, a Pet Therapy visit may be the highlight of the day of a patient!

Frequently, the pet’s visit brings smiles, warmth, and relaxation, as therapy dogs tend to be calm, sensitive and reliable.  The presence of dogs demonstrates to reduce stress, helping hospitalized people to become more aware of their emotional reactions, and also helping to increase the relations between clients and caregivers. For example, in the physical rehabilitation clinics, dogs can be a powerful tool to stimulate the work on a specific goal, in order to reinforce or develop a physical skill that is needed.

Currently, there are 60 teams that make over 50.000 pet therapy visits each year at six different hospitals and various clinics in Orlando Health Hospitals. The program is opened for enrollment during all the year.

Undoubtedly, our furry friends are amazing and special creatures and extremely valuable in the medical setting. Show your love to them, pamper them and treat them very well. They really deserve it!