Active or passive interactions with animals in animal-assisted interventions can be of great physical (reduction of hypertension, cardiac and circulatory troubles, muscle relaxation, pain relief etc.) and psychosocial (reduction of loneliness, fear and hostility, improvement of self-confidence) benefit for patients. Since not all animal species are suitable for animal-assisted interventions, guidelines with regard to the animal species, the breed, origin, behaviour, age and the state of health should be compiled. In addition, with the primarily used animals (dogs and cats) certain basic conditions must be considered (minimum age, training etc.). Several potential risks are commonly stated as arguments against the use of therapy animals in the medical field (eg, transmission of infectious diseases, contact to ecto- and endoparasites, causing an increase of allergies). To minimize the risk of infection, general constraints must be considered concerning the animal itself: vaccination, appropriate flea, tick and enteric parasite control program etc., the treatment rooms as well as to the staff and the patients. Especially for treatment of immunocompromised patients the general conditions have to be strictly defined. However, a general contact ban is not necessary. The requirements stated above are essentially also valid to pet keeping at retirement homes. Treatment in medical and dentist's practise can be considered a special problem and should be avoided as far as possible due to a the great number of uncertainty factors and people involved (guide dogs excepted). Once specific basic rules are considered animal supported therapy or contact to pets in health care settings does not appear to pose any greater risk to (immunocompromised) patients than would interactions with other people or the environment. Misconceptions about the transmission of infectious diseases by animals may cause families to get rid of their pets unnecessarily once new diagnoses are found. It can be much more harmful for the well-being and the health of immunocompromised patients to lose the contact with a beloved domestic animal than to potentially risk acquiring a zoonotic infection. In order to ensure best possible legal certainty concerning animal presence in health care settings every institution should have a plan of action at the disposal of staff and patients with the therapy animal, describing measures suitable for prevention of infectious diseases, restrictions of access for the animals, i.e. to treatment rooms as well as disinfection measures in a specific hygiene plan. Furthermore the vaccinations and the treatment with topical parasiticides have to be individually documented for each animal.
|Publication Title||Umweltmedizin in Forschung und Praxis|
|Author Address||Institut fur Hygiene und Umweltmedizin, Universitatsklinikum Giessen und Marburg GmbH, Justus-Liebig-Universitat Giessen, Friedrichstrasse 16, 35392 Giessen, Germany. email@example.com|
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