A Doctor’s Best Friend

There was a wonderful article in The Wall Street Journal this week (with video) about doctors who routinely bring their dogs to their offices. The doctors say that the presence of a dog in a doctor’s office often helps patients open up or calm down, as needed.

courtesy of flickr user JohnONolan (creative commons)

Most of the doctors in the story are psychiatrists, who apparently have a history of bringing their pets to work. According to the article, Sigmund Freud often kept his dog (a chow named Jofi) in his office during patient visits, and he observed that the dog had a calming effect on his patients. Several of the contemporary psychiatrists reported similar observations. The dog’s temperament, rather than breed, is what matters. “Canine assistants” described in the article included a shih tzu, a Labrador retriever, cavalier King Charles spaniels, and mutts.

Obviously, some patients who are allergic to or afraid of dogs won’t get any benefit from having them around. So doctors who are considering bringing their pets on staff should warn patients in advance that a dog is present, and keep Fido out of the room as necessary. Dogs don’t have to be certified therapy dogs to help patients relax, but they should be reliably well-behaved. Doctors in other specialties, such as dermatology and plastic surgery, have been known to let their dogs have the run of the waiting room as a way to relax and entertain patients, although treatment rooms are off-limits.

The dogs seem especially valuable for the youngest and oldest patients. One of the doctors in the story, a neurologist who specializes in memory disorders, said that her two dogs put many of her older patients at ease. And one parent said her child actually looks forward to visiting her child psychologist because she loves seeing the dogs.

Having a canine staff member is budget-friendly, too. Dogs don’t need a benefits plan, and they take payment in snacks, walks, and love.

Happy Holidays!

–Heidi Splete (@hsplete on twitter)

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Filed under Dermatology, Family Medicine, IMNG, Plastic Surgery

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