Brazilian Hospital Turns To Dogs For Supportive Care

Gleisiane Oliveira

Cuddling with a cute dog isn’t just a form of emotional therapy: it could also play a role in recovering from a chronic disease.

That’s the approach a hospital in Brasilia, Brazil, is taking with its program that began five months ago, according to the Associated Press. Designed for people recovering from trauma, or who have advanced-stage cancer or liver disease, sixty volunteers bring their pets each week to the Support Hospital of Brasilia. The dogs get into bed and snuggle with some patients during the 15-minute visits, while other patients who are more mobile may take the dogs to various activities within the hospital.

“A therapy dog accepts the patients without any judgment,” said Valeria Carvalho, who brings her miniature Schnauzer, Paola, to the hospital. “People start to have a different perspective on life, on health.”

Patients have had only positive things to say the program. Jaqueline Castro, a 27-year-old patient with a degenerative nerve disorder who received three visits in a month, noted that “a bit of the sadness goes away” during her canine visits.

Although more volunteers would like to bring their animals for the program, program coordinator Nayara Brea noted that only 10% of dogs are accepted. This is due to being required to undergo extensive health checks and also successfully complete training to function appropriately in a hospital. The dogs must be exceptionally calm and gentle, and not bark in the facility.