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Oxford University Hospitals hires pup to offer pet therapy to patients

This article is more than four years old.

They say that a dog is man's best friend, and that is certainly the case for many of the patients and staff in the Neurosciences Department at Oxford University Hospitals (OUH) NHS Foundation Trust.

National charity Pets As Therapy (PAT) and OUH have teamed up to offer patients with neurological conditions a chance to get some cheerful time with a dog tasked with a very important job - to make them smile.

Research has shown that PAT dogs improve people's mood, physical function and ability to cope with stressful experiences.

So Bree (a cockapoo) has been recruited as part of the newly established PAT Dog Service, and is brought in regularly to our hospital by her owner who is a PAT volunteer.

Natalie Thrale, Neurological Physiotherapist at Oxford University Hospitals, said: "We are thrilled to have Bree in our team. We hope that as many patients as possible can meet our PAT dog.

"Patients benefit a lot from the human-animal bond, and the dog always brings a smile to their faces while they are going through a difficult time.

"The dog's presence helps reduce anxiety and stress not only in patients, but also in our staff and visitors, who enjoy spending time with Bree - she's such lovely company."

While pet therapy is a wonderful asset to patient care, we still make sure that all patients who meet the dog can do so safely. Patients are screened by our Infection Control team to make sure that both the patient and the dog will be safe, with all pet therapy sessions held away from the wards.

A study published in the British Journal of Nursing in April showed a 100 percent recommendation that animal assisted intervention (AAI) should be used in hospitals across the country as it proved to improve patients' experience in hospital.

Deborah Dow, Pets As Therapy CEO, said: "We are delighted to be working with Oxford University Hospitals.

"Thousands of people of all ages benefit every week from the visits provided by our volunteer PAT teams, who visit residential homes, hospitals, hospices, schools, day care centres and prisons.

"Volunteers with just a small amount of spare time each week work with their own pets, to bring joy, comfort and companionship to many individuals who appreciate being able to touch and stroke a friendly animal.

"I would encourage anyone who would like to know more about becoming a volunteer or supporting Pets As Therapy to get in touch with us."