Pets and people often go hand-in-hand during challenging times. Purina is partnering with St. Louis Children’s Hospital to use this link to help patients by creating a comfortable, welcoming Purina Family Pet Center. The center, which is scheduled to open in April, will provide an inviting space for a patient’s loved ones, both two- and four-legged.
A child’s stay in the hospital can cause a break in the normalcy of childhood. Officials at St. Louis Children’s Hospital say that while medicine helps a lot, love tends to heal more. Pets give children a sense of security, stability and reassurance. TOUCH (Therapy of Unique Canine Helpers) has proven effective in using dogs to help children through stressful medical procedures. Hospital officials hope that bringing in a child’s own dog will have an even greater impact.
“Pets are important members of the family and can promote and improve the patient’s overall well-being, both physically and emotionally,” said Purina Veterinarian Dr. Zara Boland. “Countless studies have found a link between personal interaction with pets and well-being in people, including decreased anxiety, blood pressure and stress. Purina is partnering with St. Louis Children’s Hospital to create a comfortable, safe and welcoming environment in the hospital where patients and their families can reunite with their family pet while their child is in the hospital undergoing treatment.”
The rectangular-shaped center is designed to accommodate a child in a hospital bed or wheelchair, providing a comfortable and exclusive visiting space where young patients can relax with their family and pets. The room will also feature washable surfaces, comfortable furniture and ramps for easy interaction between pets and children. For the comfort of pets, the center will include pet treats, easy access to a local dog park and diffusers with soothing pheromones to help furry friends adjust to the new environment.
Purina consulted with the hospital on the design of the facility to help ensure its comfort for pets and provided $450,000 in funding. Only three other pediatric hospitals in the world currently offer a pet center.
“Purina has been a part of the St. Louis community for more than 120 years – it’s a passion of ours to contribute to the city we call home,” Boland said. “It’s an honor to partner with St. Louis Children’s Hospital, which is among the best children’s hospitals in the nation, right in our hometown.”
To arrange for a visit with a family pet, children and their families should contact the patient’s child life specialist to discuss the request with the child’s physician. Once permission is granted, a child life staff member will discuss the details of the visit. Families must provide pet transportation to and from the Purina Family Pet Center. All pets must be in good health to prevent risk of endangering the patient and families are encouraged to bathe their pets before a visit.