Why Pet Therapy?

If you’ve ever been ill or felt sad, quite often the warmth of a loved pet purring next to you or wagging his tail can be comforting. When a loved one is in hospice care, keeping them comfortable is a priority. Pet therapy can be a sweet, non-medicinal way to lift spirits and spread cheer. Family Hospice offers pet therapy as a type of animal-assisted therapy using dogs or other animals to comfort hospice patients and ease pain or sadness.

Whether patients are experiencing end of life care, chronic pain, or depression, pet therapy can alleviate some symptoms. We have found that it is especially beneficial to patients who had previously owned a pet, feeling connected to animals and the comfort that they are able to provide. Pet therapy can be determined in a social worker’s initial assessment with you or your loved one.

The Pet Therapy Process

When a therapy dog visits a loved one in hospice, the experience can be very impactful. Normally, the handler and the pet will visit the patient and stay for only 10-15 minutes. During the visit, the patient can pet and spend time with the animal, asking the handler questions and enjoying their company. Patients often exhibit lighter demeanors, are easier to smile, and feel less tired after each pet therapy visit.

Patients with depression, cancer, and people with dementia often benefit from these pet visits. Because of these benefits, pets often visit nursing home residents in a therapeutical setting. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, pet therapy is even being used more often at universities and in community programs to help people deal better with stress and anxiety. Social workers with pet therapy partners can dramatically help improve socialization efforts in a hospice setting. It has even be found to help with symptom management.

Why It Works

Studies have shown patients approaching the end of their lives, receive comfort in the touch and interaction from animals. From dementia patients to people suffering from ongoing pain symptoms, being able to snuggle and bond with a furry friend can offer a sense of connection. This connection can be strong, especially when patients were once pet owners.

Other studies show repeatedly that therapy dogs calm patients who exhibit agitation and restlessness near death when placed in the bed or near them. In some cases, patients have even had moments of clarity and the ability to speak while petting the animal. Caregivers and family members also can benefit from the visit, citing that they often feel better afterwards, too. Even caregivers can “perk up” when they experience the magic of a pet therapy visit for someone they love.

Pet lovers everywhere know how important their four-legged friends are. The Family Hospice pet therapy program can be a wonderful, welcome distraction to people in a hospital or other setting. This is because it reduces stress and anxiety that can accompany any potential pain or suffering. Interested in learning more? Give us a call at (618) 277-1800.


In supporting our Tree of Memories program through the holiday season, we make ornaments available at our kiosk at St. Clair Square from November 30 through December 22.


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map5110 W. Main St.
Belleville, IL

P: 618-277-1800
F: 618-277-1074


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