By Linda Hall •
Published: 12 Nov 2023 • 11:00
ANIMAL THERAPY: Vida and Lu in Hospital del Mar’s ICU in Barcelona
Photo credit: Fundacion Affinity-Hospital del Mar
BARCELONA’S Hospital del Mar now has two rather unusual and very special “dogtors” named Vida and Lu.
In a pioneering initiative launched by the hospital and the Affinity Foundation, Pyrenean shepherd Vida and greyhound Lu, took up their duties at the end of October.
The hospital is also one of the first in Spain to allow therapy dogs to accompany patients in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
“The benefits of animal-assisted therapies have been demonstrated in other fields of health,” said Maribel Vila, head of Affinity’s Therapies section. “We believe this type of activity can enhance patient’s state of health, improve the atmosphere in the ICU and make their stay a little more pleasant.”
The animal therapy programme has scientific backing from the Autonomous University of Barcelona and the Hospital del Mar Intensive Care Unit who are investigating the dogs’ effects on wellbeing and stress levels.
The programme involves twice-weekly sessions of between 15 to 20 minutes for patients who have been in the ICU for at least 7 days.
Patients – obviously only those who are comfortable with dogs – can interact with the animals depending on their health and mobility, and enjoy additional stimulation through contact with Vida and Lu.
Saliva samples will be taken from patients before and after their interaction with the dogs and analysed by the hospital’s Advanced Applied Metabolomics Research Laboratory (LIMA) to assess changes in their wellbeing and stress levels. They will also fill in a questionnaire to evaluate their feelings before and after the visits.
Dr Jaume Fatjo, director of the Affinity Animals and Health Foundation Chair of the Autonomous University of Barcelona, stressed that Vida and Lu, who are both sweet-natured and docile, are in perfect physical and mental health.
“They are constantly supervised by vets who specialise in animal welfare and behaviour,” Dr Fatjo added.
Dr Irene Dot from Hospital del Mar’s intensive care unit, who also coordinates the hospital’s humanisation programme, explained that non-pharmacological therapies like those using trained dogs, aided rehabilitation, improved the patient’s emotional state and could have a positive impact on their recovery.
Isabel Buil, director of the Barcelona-based Affinity Foundation, which was set up in 1987, also pointed out that the programme did not only benefit patients, their families and the medical team.
“It also helps us to continue removing barriers for animals and demonstrate their beneficial role in society,” she said.
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Originally from the UK, Linda is based in Valenca and is a reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering local news. Got a news story you want to share?
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