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.