I love animals, and as a consequence I share my house with a number of them. Earlier this year, I took my daughter and her friend to Crufts, the biggest dog show in the world. For some people Crufts is about the pedigree show dogs, but for us, we wanted to see how dogs could be trained to support people in different ways. We chatted to the people at the stand for Guide Dogs UK. They explained that the cost of raising and training a guide dog was phenomenal but the rewards for their owner and for the dog would be invaluable. Also at Crufts, we learned about medical detection dogs who were able to detect odour changes in cancer and diabetes, and they were then able to alert their owner of changes in their health. There was also the winner of “Friends for Life’ Award, Haatchi, a three legged stray dog who has given a new lease of life to a seven year old boy with a rare genetic condition. I was therefore interested to watch ‘Me and My Guide Dog’ on ITV1 this evening. I was again delighted and reassured of the value and independence dogs can bring to people.
Earlier in the week @AlysColeKing tweeted about an article in the Daily Telegraph reporting on a study that stroking pets can cut painkiller use after surgery. @KathEvans2 responded by explaining that @enherts have pets on children’s wards. This was added to by @deborahchafer who suggests that pets can lower blood pressure and calms the weary and upset. Indeed at a children’s hospital I used to work at, there was a very well known and respected neurosurgeon (who is sadly no longer with us) who was well known for her love of dogs which she often brought in to work, much to the delight of children and families.
Also this week I noticed that @wooffa had tweeted that children loved the visit from a rather large tarantula spider to Southampton Children’s Hospital. Seemingly then, all animals have a valuable contribution to health and wellbeing.
As an animal lover, I may be biased, but I believe that we could increase the use of animals in healthcare, not only as fabulous guide dogs or amazing medical detection and alert dogs but to promote the health and well being of children and families in hospital. There is of course lots of literature about dog visitation programmes and the use of animals in therapy and recovery. However, I feel it is also important to ensure that any use of animals does not negatively impact on the health and wellbeing of those who may not be animal lovers. But maybe, just maybe, for a sick child in hospital, meeting a friendly dog or a furry tarantula (other animals are available!) could be the boost that they need to aid recovery. I would love to hear about examples of how animals have been incorporated in to the nursing care of children and families, so I invite you to leave comments on your thoughts, feelings and examples.