Medical Minute: Dogs Heal Hearts

She's a rescue dog on a mission.

“When she gets her little blue scarf on, she’s like mighty dog. She gets this little pep in her step, this little prance.”

Penelope is one of 50 dogs that have made 30,000 patient visits at UCLA. Nurse Kathie Cole started the program to put patients at ease.

Kathie Cole says, "When I went home from work myself, I found that my dog helped relieve my stress and anxiety and I thought, 'well, if it can do it for me, why can’t it do it for them?'"

Today Penelope will visit Natalie, who’s been in the hospital for two weeks.

Natalie Capper says, “It seems like it just makes you more happy to see a little thing to pet and stuff. They just have something about them.”

Summer gets paid by the pet for her visit with Jeannie today.

“We did a survey, and patients and staff report that these visits make them happier, calmer, more loved, less lonely, less sad, less anxious, less isolated.”

In fact, their new study shows the visits decreased anxiety in heart patients by 24 percent. They also reduced stress hormones and improved heart function.

It definitely lends credibility to the field of animal-assisted therapy.”

KC, a “labradoodle,” replaces Mike Whitton’s walker with a leash as he recovers from a stroke.

Lisa Wojciechowski, Penelope’s owner, says, “It’s a win-win for everybody. It makes me feel good. I know she really enjoys it, and I like to see people smile when they see her."

Now, if only the dogs didn’t have to work so hard!

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