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Dogs May Pose Infection Risk in Health Care Settings

While the idea of calming anxious dental patients with a well-trained, adorable therapy or comfort dog appeals to most, new research shows that the use of such animals is not without risk.

While the idea of calming anxious dental patients with a well-trained, adorable therapy or comfort dog appeals to most, new research shows that the use of such animals is not without risk. The study included 45 children who came into contact with four therapy dogs during 13 visits in an oncology outpatient department at Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore.

Child with therapy dog
Image by MONKEYBUSINESSIMAGES/ISTOCK/GETTY IMAGES PLUS

None of the children had tested positive for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) prior to contact with the therapy dogs. After the children interacted with the dogs, MRSA was found on 10.2% of the subjects and 38.5% of the dogs. However, once the dogs were washed with a chlorhexidine-based shampoo prior to the visits and then cleaned with chlorhexidine wipes during the visits, the risk of spreading MRSA was reduced by 90%. The study results also found that the subjects who interacted with the therapy dogs experienced decreased blood pressure and heart rate and noted an improved mental state after the completion of the visit.

These results were presented at IDWeek, a meeting of different types of health professionals to support interprofessional collaboration and cooperation, in October. The researchers are planning a randomized controlled trial over 5 years to see whether the results can be replicated with a larger study sample.

 

From Dimensions of Dental Hygiene. December 2018;16(12):9.

1 Comment
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    Carol says

    Children in oncology Dept if hospital are immunosupressed😳. I would think they r susceptible to many other microbes than the healthier patients u seenin a dental setting. Our therapy dogs in the LTC setting are scrutinized and vetted before allowed to visit our elderly patients , still imkibologybplays a big determinant in the infectious transmission from canines

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