It’s not “take 2 doses of Fido and call me in the morning”, but contact with pets has been shown to be beneficial to people in hospitals and nursing homes. However, concerns have been raised about whether Fido could be spreading more than good will; from Salmonella and ringworm to superbugs like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

Recently, new international guidelines for these programs were published in the American Journal of Infection Control. A joint effort of physicians, infection control personnel, veterinarians and visitation program representatives, these guidelines provide comprehensive recommendations on how to run these programs and reduce the risk of disease transmission. Among the areas covered are appropriate animals, health care for visitation animals, appropriate human-animal interaction and the roles of visitation programs, pet owners and hospitals. “The goal of these guidelines is to keep these highly beneficial animal-assisted interventions safe for all involved.  That means protecting not only the patients but the pets, as well as other people and animals the pets may subsequently interact with”, said lead author Dr. Sandi Lefebvre.

  • Carol

    I have often wondered if indoor cats are getting their required vitamin D in their food as they are not getting direct sunlight.

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  • Jodi O’Donnell

    I have MRSA and have low immune system due to a spinal cord injury. I have a service dog that the vets think he may be a carrier. I have heard about a spray to put on their fur and paws to keep him from passing it to me but I can’t find it on the internet although I did once and didn’t write down the website. Have you heard of this spray and how do I get it?

  • Scott Weese

    There is no evidence that products such as you describe are effective, and it’s very (very!) unlikely they would do anything. More information on general precautions to avoid MRSA transmission are available on the MRSA fact sheet in the Resources section. You also need to consider whether it’s worth the risk of having your dog involved in pet therapy because we know those dogs are at higher risk for carrying certain infectious agents and you are at higher risk for disease.