9 Nov, 2023 @ 13:24
1 min read

Spain trials therapy dogs at hospitals: Animals will ‘boost mental well-being’ of ICU patients, experts hope

A BARCELONA hospital is part of a pioneering therapy dog trial to boost the mental health of ICU patients.

The project hopes to encourage faster recovery and reduce the amount of time patients spend in critical care. 

Hospital del Mar launched the project with the Cátedra Fundación Affinity Animales y Salud (Animal Affinity and Health Foundation), a charity specialising in pet therapy. 

The foundation is part of the Universidad Autonoma de Barcelona’s psychology department, directed by Jaume Fatjo. 

He said: “When we interact with dogs, it makes us feel better, reduces stress and helps us to express positive emotions.

“It is a universal and instantaneous reaction experienced by anyone who likes having a furry friend.”

Dogs are well known to boost happiness. Photo: Eric Ward/Unsplash

The trial includes two 20-minute sessions a week with the therapy dogs, after which researchers will collect saliva samples from patients to check for the presence of different metabolites which can indicate stress and happiness levels. 

They will also test the dogs, to see if the benefit is mutual. 

The pilot programme is set to become a permanent fixture in the Barcelona hospital, alongside other well being measures for critical patients, such as walks along the beach. 

Various patients are set to benefit from the study, as long as they have been in the ICU for at least one week. 

According to UCI Manager, Joan Ramon Masclans, patients that will benefit are: “nervous, uneasy, delirious, confused or do not sleep well.”

The dogs act as an ‘escape valve’ for patients, he said: “The dog gives them company, they can talk to it about things that sometimes they wouldn’t even say to anyone else and they can pet it,  physical contact alone releases stress.”

Dogs selected for the programme have calm temperaments and experience in health environments. 


Yzabelle Bostyn

After spending much of her childhood in Andalucia and adulthood between Barcelona and Latin America, Yzabelle has settled in the Costa del Sol to put her NCTJ & Journalism Masters to good use. She is particularly interested in travel, vegan food and has been leading the Olive Press Nolotil campaign. Have a story? email yzabelle@theolivepress.es

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