ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - For thousands of sick or injured patients, a dose of dog is just what the doctor prescribed.
Orlando Health physicians can now order pet therapy electronically for their patients. The change came after it became clear the dogs had a major impact on patients.
Dianne Adams started going to the hospital for chemotherapy treatment in March.
“I have been diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer. It was just a whirlwind of emotions,” she said.
Day one of chemo was especially rough.
“I was a little bummed because it was my first treatment and I didn't know what to expect. And this cute little face just walked in and I just completely forgot what I was worried about," she said.
Pet therapy coordinator Kim Bissing said it’s been proven that therapy dogs can help a patient through stressful times.
“Just spending five minutes with a dog can actually increase their endorphins and drop their blood pressure,” she said.
Raw: Orlando Health patient describes help from therapy dogs
The best evidence came from a man who wouldn't wake up.
“They had been trying for two days to get him out of this coma,” Bissing said.
The dog lover had seven of his own pups at home, so doctors decided to have Kahlua, a rottweiler and labrador mix, give it a try.
“I gave her a command, she licked his hands and he opened his eyes,” Bissing said.
The demand for the remedy jumped so high recently that Orlando Health's team of 60 can't keep up.
That’s why PetSmart's paying to expand the program by 30 more dogs.
"It's just remarkable how these creatures can help a human being," said Adams. "Even if they slobber you, you're just like, 'Oh thank you so much.'"
Last year, the dogs made more than 50,000 visits to patients.
Anyone with a dog who has a good temperament can volunteer for the pet therapy program.
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