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Inside the genius hospital where pets can comfort their sick owners

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Sarah Biddlecombe
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There are plenty of benefits to owning a pet. Not only can they enhance our lives, they can also help boost our health: studies have shown stroking an animal can reduce stress and lower blood pressure, while people with pets are half as likely to suffer from depression.

And now, pets are even being allowed to visit their sick owners in hospital to help speed up their recovery and provide comfort.

hospital pets

Juravinski hospital in Ontario, Canada is the first to allow pets to visit their owners, and the impact on the patients' health has been remarkable.

"We know that when patients get to see their pet, it can improve vital signs, improve depression and the feeling of isolation, it opens communication back up and it is a reminder for a reason for the patient to get well and return home," Donna Jenkins, who founded the program, told Bored Panda.

hospital pets

Jenkins started the program after seeing how much her 25-year-old nephew Zachary, who suffered from Hodgkin's lymphoma, benefited from having his dogs visit him in hospital.

She said, "While Zachary was in the hospital for many weeks and very sick after having a stem cell transplant,  he begged to see his dog, Chase.

“We sneaked Chase into ICU to see him and the effect it had on Zachary was remarkable. When Zachary realized he was not going to survive his cancer, he made me promise to start the organisation."

hospital pets

The organisation, named Zachary's Paws for Healing, launched on 15 September last year. It allows pets to visit their humans for up to an hour on a weekly basis.

And in keeping with hospital policies, the animals are thoroughly cleaned before their visits and are kept separately to other patients.

"Having a pet visit a human brings some normalcy back to the patient's life. It takes their mind off the hospital and being sick for a bit," Jenkins added.

hospital pets

You can find out more, and watch pets visiting their owners, in the video from inside the hospital below.

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Sarah Biddlecombe

Sarah Biddlecombe is an award-winning journalist and Digital Features Editor at Stylist

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