In this edition of Healthy Living, our Katie Gibas explains the importance of pet therapy as a way to relieve stress on patients and even their families. There's no question that being a patient in a hospital is tough.
Katie Robinson is just 12 and has been here for days.
But one of those days, she got a surprise visit from Sebastian.
Robinson said, "He reminds me of my own dog, him being able to be right next to me and me being able to pet him. He's a very friendly and playful dog and he's really, really nice."
Katie is just one of many hospitalized patients being visited by pet therapy animals.
"It's hard being in the hospital and a little distraction, you don't hear the beeping. You don't think about so much, 'Oh my gosh. I'm in the hospital. I don't know when I'm going home.' All those thoughts for a few minutes are completely swayed away," said Mary Gilbert, Pet Partner Volunteer, VP of Pet Partners of Syracuse.
"This is a right spot. This is a chance to have a pet get into bed with them to snuggle, to cuddle. The evidence has shown that there's a lot of chemical reactions in the brain that happens when we do this. And it calms the patient down. It relaxes them and just makes them feel better all day," said Cynthia Griffith, Upstate University Hospital Pet Therapy Volunteer.
And the pet therapy isn't just for patients. They also visit families in the waiting rooms.
It's a trend that's growing more mainstream by the day.
"Right now it's balancing out that medical model we have. Where, down the road, yeah, it will be normal where we won't get that double take of 'dogs in the hospital!?'" asked Rachelle Lando, St. Joseph's Hospital Office of Patient Experience Coordinator.
In addition to bringing a smile to your face, Pet Therapy can also have physiological benefits as well.
Lando added, "Amazing things happen. Blood pressure will go down. They'll just start feeling better."
"We have kids fall asleep petting the dogs, they'll just fall asleep. And for kids in the hospital, that can be really difficult to be able to relax to the point of taking a nap during the day," said Maggie Zick, MS CCLS, Certified Child Life Specialist.
Animals have to be screened by a veterinarian.
Pet owners have to go through a handler course and the animals have to complete obedience training.