For thousands of years humans have lived with dogs. It is no surprise that dogs are often woven into the fabric of our families. In patients with chronic medical problems, dogs can play a vital role in improving their quality of life. Increasingly, hospitals and rehabilitation programs are incorporating pet therapy into their treatments.
If you have lung disease like Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis or Pulmonary Hypertension, getting a pet may provide many benefits.
The Benefits of a Pet for Patients with Lung Disease
1. The unconditional love of a pet is like a shot of positive energy on a daily basis.
2. Having a pet that depends on you requires you to engage the outside world.
3. Pets help reduce anxiety and pain.
4. Having a pet can serve as motivation to get outside the house.
5. Pets help you connect with other people. People are more likely to engage in conversation with you when you have a pet with you.
A wonderful patient of mine was struggling with anxiety and depression caused by her lung disease. She lived alone and felt isolated. She adopted a maltese (small breed hypoallergenic dog). We filled paperwork out allowing the dog to be classified as a therapy dog. Immediately, the patient’s mood brightened. She would sit at the park with her dog and strangers would approach her in conversation about her dog. When she was hospitalized, her dog stayed with her. After her lung transplantation, her dog stayed with her in the ICU.
Another patient of mine was dealing with chronic pain. Medications were not very effective in reducing her pain symptoms. In the hospital we encouraged her family to bring in her dog from home. Immediately upon the dog’s arrival, the patient relaxed, her pain scores dropped and she was much more comfortable.
Choosing the Right Pet
I am partial to dogs but cats can serve the same function. When you come to considering what type of dog would be best, consider the size of the dog, temperament, and how you plan to care for your new pet. If you have balance problems, then a large dog may not be a great choice. If you live in a small apartment, then a smaller dog would likely be better. If you have allergies, choose a breed that is hypoallergenic such as a Poodle, Maltese, or Havanese (there are many others too). Consider whether you have the time and energy to train a puppy. If not, then consider adopting a shelter dog that is already house-trained. Be realistic about your capabilities. If you are not able to care for a pet by yourself, then consider becoming a regular visitor at a pet shelter. If you are periodically hospitalized and you live alone, be sure to plan ahead and make arrangements for someone to care for your pet.