LTC Pet Therapy: Benefits vs Contamination Risks

LTC Pet Therapy: Benefits vs Contamination Risks

The Elliot Lake Standard recently published an article highlighting an important but often time under-promoted form of client companionship, the benefits of Pet Therapy.

Magical Paws, (here’s their Facebook page) is a group that coordinates pet therapy visits across a wide-specturm of activities. In the aforementioned article, the dogs of Magical Paws visit with residents of Golden Birches Terrace Long Term Care once every two weeks.

Gist of the article = The majority of residences loved the visit from the pets.

Obviously, workplaces, settings and numerous additional considerations can affect whether or not a workplace partakes in a pet therapy program. But after consulting with a number of contacts & friends within the industry, it appears that structured pet therapy within care settings is VERY minimal, around 10-20% at best. Unstructured pet therapy, i.e. employees bringing in their own pets is higher.


The International Journal of Psychosocial Rehabilitation released a study in 1999 regarding Pet Therapy and Geriatric Patients within a rehabilitation setting. While this rehabilitation setting isn’t pertaint to all cases, the conclusion of the study is:

The data has supported the alternative hypothesis that there is a difference between the emotional well being and psychological attitudes of patients participating in Pet Therapy than those who did not received Pet Therapy.

One of the biggest issues facing Pet Therapy is contamination. A 2009 study based in Canada highlighted a case of 26 pets visiting hospitals or LTC. Two of the dogs ended up becoming contaminated, one with MRSA, the other will C difficile. From a NY Times article on the study:

“It?s unrealistic to think that we can sanitize an animal visitor?s body between patients,? ?But we can and do ask human visitors to sanitize their hands so they don?t spread germs.? - Researcher Sandra Lefebvre of the University of Guelph?s Ontario Veterinary College.

And there’s the issue. Is there really an actionable criteria for weighing the benefits of pet therapy vs the risk of disease outbreak?

Your Take

1. Is it worth the risk? Do the benefits outweigh the potential negatives?

2. Without overstepping any confidentiality boundaries, do you have any stories of pet therapy that you could share in our comments section?