Animal-Assisted Therapy: Bringing Joy on the Ruff Days

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Hershey, A certified therapy dog at Pine Grove

Dogs are often said to be “man’s best friend” and are known for their loyalty to their owners. For therapy dogs who are trained for animal-assisted therapy, their friendship and unconditional love offers patients that special comfort that only our tail-wagging friends can provide.

Animal-assisted therapy is a complimentary health treatment which involves a patient, a highly trained animal and an animal handler. Animal-assisted therapy is helpful for patients and families facing serious illness by providing comfort and enjoyment. Research shows that patients who participated in animal-assisted therapy reported feeling more relaxed, better pain relief, and less discomfort. Animal-assisted therapy has also been shown to increase mental stimulation in patients, improve outward focus, and improve the patient’s physiological status.

“I was just amazed at how the patients perked up when the therapy dog was in the room. Words cannot express what a wonderful experience it was to observe the interactions between Hershey and patients,” Said Amber Chancelor, Palliative and Supportive Care coordinator at Forrest General Hospital. Hershey is a certified therapy Dog at Pine Grove Behavioral Health and Addiction Services, and she also works with patients in Forrest General’s Pallative and Supportive Care services.

Animal-assisted therapy not only has a positive impact on patients but can also affect others as well. Family members who watch therapy sessions report feeling better after animal visits, and studies have shown that even hospital staff experience a decrease in stress levels as a result of interactions with therapy dogs.

Animal-assisted therapy is one of the methods used by the Palliative and Supportive Care team at Forrest General to optimize quality of life for patients with serious illness and their families. For more information on Palliative and Supportive Care and animal-assisted therapy, visit www.forresthealth.org/services/palliative-and-supportive-care.

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