• Gunner visits with a patient.

    Pet therapy

    Pet therapy, also known as animal-assisted therapy, provides comfort through companionship. Interacting with a calm, good-natured pet provides a number of physical and mental health benefits.

    Pet therapy can:

    • Provide relaxation.
    • Lower blood pressure.
    • Lessen anxiety.
    • Improve depression.
    • Increase socialization.
    • Reduce loneliness.

    Who can request pet therapy at UK HealthCare?

    We offer pet therapy to patients in several inpatient areas, including:

    • Gill Heart Institute.
    • Kentucky Children’s Hospital – Child Life Program.
    • Markey Cancer Center.

    What type of animal is used in the pet therapy program at UK HealthCare?

    Our program includes several certified pet therapy dogs and their respective owners. Every dog-owner pair is carefully screened by the UK Volunteer Services staff to ensure that the dogs are certified in pet therapy, well trained, fully immunized and insured.

    What can I expect at a pet therapy session?

    At the time of your pet therapy appointment, the therapy dog and its owner will arrive at your hospital room. We schedule our pet therapy appointments carefully to ensure there is only one dog present in your inpatient unit at any time.

    After you and the dog greet each other and settle in, the owner can tell you about the dog and its abilities. Some patients prefer to pet their therapy dog, while others wish to interact with their therapy dog through talking or learning more about its abilities. Most patients find comfort in whatever type of interaction they choose. Pet therapy sessions typically last up to 15 minutes.

    How do I request pet therapy at UK HealthCare?

    If you are a patient admitted in one of the inpatient areas where pet therapy is offered, you may ask that your doctor, nurse or social worker refer you for pet therapy. You will be seen in your hospital room.

    What does a pet therapy session cost?

    There is no cost to patients who request a pet therapy visit while admitted to one of the inpatient areas where it is offered. 

    What must a dog owner do to become a pet therapy volunteer?

    You must have your dog certified as a therapy pet through an accredited organization. You are responsible for the cost of obtaining this certification. Pet therapy volunteers must also pay for liability insurance on their certified pets.

    If you have questions about the pet therapy program at UK HealthCare, please contact Katie Tibbitts, Manager, Volunteer Services at 859-323-6023 or katie.tibbitts@uky.edu.