Pet Therapy is the Key to Good Mental Health

September 30, 2020

It’s no secret that pets are doctors without the degree. Furry friends have been providing comfort and love to owners for decades. Studies confirm that affection from animals have healing powers, specifically for healthcare workers. The “Pet Pause” program piloted by Rush University Medical Center in 2016 led to promising results for mental health.

Consistently working long hours, sometimes isolated from family members, and overwhelmed with patients and COVID concerns, healthcare workers need a break too. Bringing dogs into the office can provide much-needed relief and support for both physical and mental health. Playtime with dogs has been found to lift spirits and lessen depression, decrease anxiety, and reduce loneliness. The PAWS for People pet healing organization confirms that when humans interact with dogs, serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin – hormones that elevate the mood – are released. The escape of petting a dog can be a great distraction from the intensely tiring world of healthcare.

It is important to note that there are currently no specific policies on pet pause programs in the dental space. Therefore, it is up to practice discretion as to how to operate the program. However, consider running the program outside of practice hours exclusively for team members. Hosting the pet pause outside will eliminate the potential clean up inside the practice. Team members are welcome to bring their animals as long as they do not come into contact with patients. While any pet can provide comfort to some, the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) suggests dogs for such programs because fewer people are allergic, and their behavior is much more predictable.

Pet therapy may be just what your practice needs to boost mood and morale while continuing to treat others through the mentally and physically taxing pandemic.