The dogs showing sick kids how to go through medical procedures

A group of therapy dogs is helping to ease the nerves of sick children going through medical procedures.

Milo, Hattie, Quinn, Jessie, Leo and Archie are part of a volunteer-run group affectionally known as the ‘dog-tors’ and are completing rounds at Southampton Children’s Hospital in the UK.

The six golden retrievers not only provide plenty of cuddles and smiles for the young patients staying in hospital, but are also showing sick kids that medical procedures aren’t as scary as they may seem.

One of the therapy dogs visits a young patient and puts a smile on her face.
Therapy dogs visit children at the hospital up to five times a week. Source: Southampton Children’s Hospital AAI team/David Hill

It all started about seven years ago when a young boy in hospital needed to wear a mask and having never used one before, he found it a little daunting, so a therapy dog who was there to provide some much needed comfort put up his paw to help.

“One of the therapy dogs was happy to poke his nose in a spare mask and have a sniff,” volunteer and ‘dog mum’ Lyndsey Uglow told Yahoo News Australia.

As soon as the patient saw that the dog was ‘using’ the mask, he was happy to give it a try too.

Leo the therapy dog at Southampton Children’s Hospital getting an x-ray.
Leo the 'dog-tor' stars in a video showing children that an X-ray is nothing to be scared of. Source: Southampton Children’s Hospital AAI team

Recently the team of dog-tors started creating videos and photos using the medical equipment and it’s making procedures like X-rays look a lot less intimidating for young patients.

All of the dog-tors are experts in providing smiles and comfort to the children in hospital and their calming nature is the perfect way to show sick children what happens during medical procedures.

Jessie’s favourite type of affection came in handy when demonstrating what a echocardiogram is.

“She is very happy to lie on her back and have her tummy rubbed,” Ms Uglow said.

The six therapy dogs or 'dog-tors' at Southampton Children’s Hospital in the UK
Meet the 'Dog-tors' (left to to right) Milo, Hattie, Quinn, Jessie, Leo and Archie. Source: Southampton Children’s Hospital AAI team

Leo was more than happy to check in for an X-ray and the hospital caught his visit on camera so human doctors could show it to young patients worried about their first X-ray.

While the dogs don’t actually go through the procedures, posing for the videos and images makes the medical equipment seem less daunting and the young patient’s nerves turn to “surprise and giggles” once they see the dogs demonstrating the equipment.

The volunteer-run Animal Assisted Intervention team visits the children’s hospital up to five times a week and don’t just provide a ‘warm fuzzy feeling’ at the hospital.

A year-long study into the impacts of therapy dogs on children has proven that the presence of dogs reduced anxiety in young patients when waiting for tests, investigations and examinations.

Jessie poses for an echocardiogram and one of the children practice bandaging on a therapy dog.
Jessie poses while having an 'echocardiogram'. Source: Southampton Children’s Hospital AAI team

The dog-tors even helped children who were nervous around dogs outside of hospital.

“Children who were previously nervous around dogs reported less fear as a result of the visits,” the study published in the British Journal of Nursing found.

While the medical staff will always be the most important part in treating an ill child, these fluffy dog-tors are proving they are a valuable asset as well.

“The children seem to trust them, and for many the fact that the dog has done it too (had an X-ray) persuades them that it is ok,” Ms Uglow told Yahoo News Australia.

The Animal Assisted Intervention team at The Southampton Children’s Hospital exist because of volunteers and rely on donations to help fund the program.

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