Animals in the Hospital

There's a meme circulating on Facebook right now that says "Should dogs be allowed in hospital beds? Share if you agree." Here's my response:

No! I see this as a dangerous trend. Asthma can be a life-threatening condition, especially if the patient is already in the hospital for other respiratory conditions. Patients and hospital staff with allergies must take priority, especially since regular cleaning does not remove animal dander. My health insurer says a place must be animal-freefor 6 to 12 months before it is safe for me to stay there. Even if a hospital could manage to maintain separate animal and allergy-free rooms over such a long period, it can't prevent hospital staff from tracking dander from one room to another. It would also mean that pet owners would be denied some of the best medical care because doctors and nurses also suffer from animal allergies. This is a case where other patients' — and the staff's! — health most take priority over the emotional comfort an animal can provide.

What are your thoughts?


Comments 11

  • K8sMom2002

    Ann Marie, I think you make excellent points! This is another case where one disability's accommodations seem to be crashing up against another disability's accommodations. 

    You have to also think about it from an infection control point — medical staff going from room to room can wash their hands and be proactive in not spreading germs. But keeping dogs from doing that would be infinitely harder. 

    I think it's different if a service animal was brought to a hospital's common area or an outdoor venue at specified, pre-planned times by an outside handler — then staff and the animal's handler could possibly be trained to minimize the risk to patients managing asthma or dander allergies. 

    Do you know of specific major hospital chains that are considering this?

  • Ann Marie

    No, but I've seen pictures posted on Facebook showing animals visiting patients in hospitals. In one case it was even a horse. So some hospitals must be allowing it. The horse wasn't even a service animal. It was a police horse coming by to visit his former rider in the hospital.

    Real service animals are uncommon enough that they may not cause that many problems. On the other hand, most conditions requiring service animals are not as life-threatening as allergies, so that I think allergies must take priority in a hospital. A blind person, for instance, would get sufficient assistance in a hospital so as to render a guide dog unnecessary. And the absence of the guide dog wouldn't affect that person's health.

  • K8sMom2002

    We're seeing in some parts of the country an increase in "comfort" or "emotional support" animals — and I think that's where the conflict will really lie. 

    I think we'll have to be both vigilant and empathetic so that we can show others that, while we understand the needs of others with disabilities, breathing is really, really important thing!

    I'm sure others will chime in here — I hope they will! @Shea and @sazzie have both had issues with pet dander in public places.

  • Jen

    I have to wonder if the pics on Facebook are real, doctored or somehow staged.  If they are real, I'm curious about the hospitals that are allowing this and what their policies are (what animals they let in, why they let them in, cleaning/dander control, etc).

  • Kathy P

    I've seen photos of comfort animals being brought in too. And I never really thought to much about it. I couldn't find much guidance on policies. I did find that cats aren't allowed as therapy animals in hospitals since more people are allergic to cats than dogs. Most of the info I found related to infection control and not allergies.

  • Ann Marie

    You make a good point, Kathy, that some of the pictures in the internet might be fake. But about animals — even pets — in hospitals last year, and many hospitals have their own guidelines posted on the net. Some allow pet visits (under certain conditions) and all allow service animals.

    I can't help wonder what will happen the first time a doctor suffers from an asthma attack while doing his rounds. If the hospitals continue is relativize allergy patients' needs, they might sit up and pay attention when allergy-suffering physicians begin to take sick leave or develop problems at work.



  • K8sMom2002

    Ann Marie, it might be the same as when latex allergies began to crop up with more frequency in healthcare workers. It's definitely a question to ask your hospital if you suffer from severe dander allergies!

  • Shea

    When I was in high school I video-taped a news story on something called Project PUP where they were bringing in dogs to visit sick people in the hospital. Back then, I didn't know any better. Now I have severe allergies and asthma and a severe chronic allergic disease called Churg-Strauss Syndrome, and even secondhand dog dander can cause me severe worsening of my entire condition and can even be life-threatening. We need to keep medical facilities free of dander from animals. The medical community and people in hospitals need to be made aware of the studies on worsening asthma in children who are in classrooms with more cat owners… and that is just the dander that travels on the owners belongings, not even direct exposure which surely would be worse. If people need to have contact with animals in order to get batter, they need to go to separate facilities. I am sick of my health being worsened because people all of a sudden cannot live without a dog or cat.. or freaking horse… for god's sake! It is beyond frustrating.

  • K8sMom2002

    Shea, until I "met" you on these forums, I never truly understood how damaging "second-hand" dander could be. I understood cigarette smoke because that's my personal cross to bear, but not pet dander. I'm glad you have educated me. I still have my pets, but I try very hard to be sure that I'm as dander-free as possible, and I would never insist that we have a gathering here if any participant had problems with pet dander. 

    I'm hoping that in the very near future, research will find a way to "de-fang" dander of its harmful effects on you and others who have just as severe an allergy.

    I agree — as nice as it is to have pets, I don't think they need to be in a hospital or a public area. Pets are for home!

  • Shea

    Thanks K8SMOM for your kind words and understanding, you are sooo sweet and thoughtful, I know I come off angry a lot in my posts… and it is just because a lot of people do not have any clue about dander and its effect on themselves or others… like I myself had no idea before my allergies developed into a life-threatening chronic health crisis, really. And then, once I knew, once I talked to doctors and researched studies and experimented on myself around it, it was like WOAH. And, I looked back on my life and was like… wow.. I have lived with dogs most of my life, and I have always had what the doctors would call sinusitis, inflamed sinuses, sensitive skin, poor sense of smell, always had a stuffed up nose, you could always here it in my voice, like Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, and I always had health/immune system problems growing up. And it is insane…. I mean no one talks about pet allergies and they are soooo common, and there are all these kids shows where dogs are everywhere and my son and I are allergic, and the people in the movies who do not like dogs or cats are demonized, and businesses and advertising LOOOOVE to cater to pet-owners because people spend insane amounts of money on their pets but that just furthers the "thing"— the thing is like the obsessive need for a pet in the home, and treating one as a family member. Nowadays there are all these people out there who are lonely and look to a pet for an answer, and a lot do not like kids but push their dogs in strollers, and drive cars with bumper stickers that say "my dog is better than your honor student" and they have to bring them everywhere, and they say it is for their emotional and psychological health (I have a BA in Psychology and I would say that is NOT therapeutic or healthy psychologically) and those things, like the bumper sticker really hit me hard emotionally, and that is because the father of my son literally chose his pets over my son and I right after my son's birth when I was struggling so badly with my health…. and I had to move out and raise my son on my own most of his life, and now his father has come back and I struggle with his father's inability to comprehend that we are allergic, and I am fighting laws now and dealing with judges to fight for our right to not be exposed, especially my son to not have to sleep in a home with a dog and dog dander half of the week all of a sudden after he has tested highly allergic to dogs, and dander that would come home on him would trigger my much more sever allergies and allergic disease Churg-Strauss Syndrome, which can make this life-threatening disease have a worse prognosis… oh jeez and I am still waiting on a final hearing for all of that,  but have been able to protect my son and myself thus far using ALL my resources, luckily…and barely. So, it is NOT people like you whom the anger in my posts is directed at.  it is those who are aware and do have family members who they know are allergic telling them to put themselves in harms way that my anger is toward.

    For me, my health condition is severe enough to give me the strength to fight for my self and stay away from homes with cats and dogs in them, but when I was younger, I was pressured by family to just deal with it and go to the house with cats, and brush it under the table and I would be miserable at holiday events when everyone else was having fun, and it effected me… I swear on more than one level…. it turned into a thing for me, like became an unhealthy learned perception that my wellbeing didn't matter that much, and that is something psychological that I am now trying to fight and change about myself.

    I am finding ways to interact with people and not feel isolated or like my wellbeing is ignored, but I am looking for more awareness and policies in public places to help me and others, both severe and who are not severe yet with allergies and asthma. I am also trying to not go too deep into it and trying to not to be averted to dogs in general, just keep a distance when outdoors, and not go into enclosed spaces with them or where their dander would be high. I am hoping medications can lessen my body's allergic reaction to the secondhand dander, but when it comes to dogs being regulars in public places… I am far from being able to cope with that without being on high dose steroids, which I am on now, and I cannot do that forever. I want awareness. I want safety. And it is a common enough problem (allergies and asthma) that we should have awareness and support from the medical community informing and the government and disability committees to stop the "thing" with pets going everywhere with people for emotional reasons, and start advocating for those who cannot breathe and are being forced to take expensive medications with bad side effects as a result. I am teaching my son that a lot of people are allergic and do not sleep with cats or dogs or put there faces close to them or live with them like they show on TV, that there are a lot of children who are allergic to them and that he is one of them and he should never feel ashamed or try to hide his symptoms or suffer through them, because that can make them chronic and worse and he deserves to grow up healthy. I just wish public policy and laws would support that statement.

  • K8sMom2002

    Shea, you've had a tough road, but you show a great deal of grit and determination. I hope that one day you will be able to let down your guard and not have to be so vigilant. People don't always understand others' situations and problems, but with awareness and compassion, I think we can all come together in a better way.