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Camilla Care

Spanish hospital uses therapy dogs to boost the morale of ICU patients

Vaseline 4 weeks ago

BARCELONA – Joel Bueno cried with joy as his four-legged guests entered the intensive care unit where he had been admitted due to a blood clot.

Bueno, 34, said the affection from therapy dogs Vida and Lu reminded him of his own dog at home.

“It’s wonderful to have someone who loves you more than anything in the world,” he told Reuters with a broad smile. “They give everything for you, no matter how you treat them.”

The visit was part of a trial launched by the Hospital del Mar in Barcelona and the Affinity Foundation, specialized in pet therapy, to improve the emotional well-being of patients in intensive care units (ICU).

Patients in the program receive two visits per week of 15 to 20 minutes each.

“For now it is just a perception, but it seems to us that there are benefits for patients,” says Lucia Picazo, an ICU doctor.

The project will analyze saliva samples collected from patients before and after a therapy session, to check whether stress indicators such as cortisol decrease while those related to well-being such as oxytocin and serotonin increase, she said.

Patients aren’t the only ones benefiting from the project: Many emergency room staff also enjoy having the canines around and bonding with them, says Maribel Vida, who leads Affinity’s animal therapy projects.

Bueno has no doubts about the benefits of the process. Just the news that some dogs might be visiting was an immediate boost to morale, he said.