Dogs and other animals in the hospital setting guideline

Publication: 11/02/2019  
Next review: 26/05/2025  
Clinical Guideline
ID: 5888 
Approved By: Trust Clinical Guidelines Group 
Copyright© Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust 2022  


This Clinical Guideline is intended for use by healthcare professionals within Leeds unless otherwise stated.
For healthcare professionals in other trusts, please ensure that you consult relevant local and national guidance.

Dogs and other animals in the hospital setting guideline

Summary of Guideline

This guideline covers therapy dogs and service animals (e.g guide dogs/police dogs) visiting LTHT with regards to infection control measures. The body of this guideline does not cover other animals or pet dogs; however a risk assessment form is included for patients’ own pets and other animals visiting  (refer to appendix 1).

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There is emerging research evidence that demonstrates positive outcomes from dogs and other animals visiting patients in health care settings.  Dogs and other animals used as therapies are becoming widely accepted as an effective aid to help stimulation and communication amongst patients in hospital, particularly in those with chronic conditions or terminal illness (Brodie and Biley 1999). Infection prevention and control has seen an increase in requests around advice for visiting dogs and other animals in clinical areas.

Animals in health care settings can be an infection risk for patients who are immuno-compromised, with allergies or pregnant. Dogs and other animals can cause a number of infections that could be brought into the hospital environment; even healthy animals have been known to carry, MRSA Clostridium difficile, Giardia, and Salmonella (HPA 2010, Khan and Farrag 2000).

Transmission of infections to humans from animals can occur through direct or indirect contact. Animals can become carriers of potentially infectious human pathogens and may be responsible for cross infection from person to person.  

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Please see following recommendations:

  • Hand washing with soap and water is required by staff, patients and visitors before and after touching a dog (please refer to the Hand Hygiene Policy - LTHT)
  • If patients have wounds, broken skin or sores they must have them fully covered prior to a dog visiting, and the dog should be prevented from touching the area (s), licking or scratching. 
  • Dogs should be cleaned and well groomed before visiting the clinical area. 
  • To avoid cross contamination of microorganisms dogs should not be allowed on patients’ beds.
  • Dogs should not be fed on raw food. Raw meat can contain bacterial microorganisms that can cause some gastrointestinal infections that can pose a risk of transmission (Schmidt and Williams, 2018).
  • Dogs must be on leads throughout their visit and supervised by their owner/handler at all times. They should not be allowed to wander around or visit other patients where a risk assessment has not been carried out.
  • Therapy dogs should not visit specific clinical areas listed below. This is due to the high risk nature of the patient groups or the procedures which the areas are designated for:
  • Theatres or anaesthetic rooms
  • Neonatal units
  • Clinical treatment rooms
  • Cystic Fibrosis wards or clinics
  • Haematology
  • Dogs should not visit areas where there are immunocompromised patients. If there is a risk to other immunocompromised patients in the clinical area then a risk assessment should be carried out and if necessary therapy dogs should be excluded from visiting. If it is felt that a visit poses risk to other patients in the clinical area then the contact should take place away from the unit.
  • Dogs should not visit patients in source isolation and should not visit clinical areas with bay restrictions due to a confirmed or suspected infection.
  • All dogs coming into LTHT must be compliant with governing organisations guidelines (e.g Pets As Therapy/Therapy Dogs Nationwide), and a certificate must be provided to the patient experience team to confirm annual compliance with appropriate vaccinations.
  • Dogs should not be allowed in bays where there are other patients with known allergy to dogs. In case of accidental exposure, the dog should be immediately removed from the environment and adequate ventilation with cleaning of areas of contact should be ensured to remove the allergen from the environment.

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Record: 5888

The aim of this guideline is to minimise the infection risk associated with animals and pets within the hospital environment.

To provide guidance to staff, patients, relatives and volunteers bringing therapy dogs and service dogs into a clinical area. This is to ensure that there are clear infection control measures in place to reduce risk and maintain patient safety.

For any other animals or pets (other than therapy dogs or service animals), a risk assessment form will need to be completed and emailed to the Infection prevention team for approval prior to a visit (refer to appendix 1).

Clinical condition:
Target patient group:
Target professional group(s): Allied Health Professionals
Clinical Physiologists
Registered Nurses Working in Critical Care
Secondary Care Doctors
Secondary Care Nurses
Adapted from:

Evidence base

Brodie S and Biley F (1999) An exploration of the potential benefits of pet facilitated therapy. Journal of Clinical Nursing. 8 329-337.

Custovic A, Simpson BM, Simpson A, et al. Current mite, cat, and dog allergen exposure, pet ownership, and sensitization to inhalant allergens in adults. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 2003;111(2):402-407.

Khan MA and Farrag N (2000) Animal assisted activity and infection control implications in a healthcare setting. Journal of hospital Infection. 46 4-11.

Pets as therapy website: accessed 21/09/18

Approved By

Trust Clinical Guidelines Group

Document history

LHP version 1.0

Related information

Not supplied

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