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November 9, 2011 at 1:18 PMComments: 5 Faves: 0

Dog Walking: A new prescription for heart patients?

By Bri Luginbill More Blogs by This Author

Walking the dog may just seem like part of the daily routine for a dog owner, but have you ever stopped to think about the health benefits? Doctors in the UK have.

They have started prescribing dog walking to patients who are recovering from heart surgery.

Dog walking as prescribed treatment?

It may not be as strange as it sounds.

The Dogs Trust Charity is an organization that believes this treatment will help improve patients’ physical, social and psychological well-being. This organization has started an initiative at Harefield Hospital, where, as part of the final stages of a patient’s post-op rehabilitation, they are asked to volunteer at a local dog shelter. Doctors believe that this type of treatment will encourage patients to exercise and work on living a healthier lifestyle.

Walking has always been a part of cardiac rehabilitation, but this is the first time dog walking has been offered.  Nurse Lynda Evans, a nurse at Harefield, has seen previous studies that indicate pets help calm stressed patients while also reducing their loneliness. She believes having a dog walk with you is beneficial,

“Walking is one of the best forms of exercise for patients recovering from a cardiac event, and what better way to do it than alongside a grateful canine companion.”

Patients couldn’t agree more. Michael Knepper couldn’t help but smile once he began caring for the dogs after he underwent a serious cardiac operation,

“With cardiac rehab you have to change your mindset and walking a dog is a great way to do that.”

The Dogs Trust Charity is trying to spread the word about dog walking and its health benefits.Their CEO states,

“...we hope that GPs and hospitals will start to encourage patients to engage with dogs for a healthier and happier lifestyle.”

This charity hopes other hospitals will follow with this type of treatment and “prescribe a daily dose of dog.”

Have you had your dose of dog today?


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  • This is so true! After I had my heart surgery I was able to be around a dog that the hospital used for therapy. Just petting the dog made me smile and lifted my spirits. I am sure if I was prescribed to walk a dog even just on a weekly basis, I would have felt even better during my recovery. Being around an animal can really take your mind off the pain.

  • We don't have any dogs at home, but I can definitely attest to the therapeutic benefits of having animals around and with 6 cats at home, there's almost always at least one or two in the room with us.

    ALSO - our cats LOVE going for walks through the woods with us! All I need to do is call out "Kiiiiiiii---kiii---kiii---kiitttttYY!!" and they all coming running.

    They know what it means - adventure time! :D

  • Makes total sense to me, Izzy does pet therapy at a children's hospital and you can immediately see the difference in the children's spirit! She LOVES to give them kisses! My neighbor adopted a dog after he had a heart attack with open heart surgery...I see him and Lily (his Australian Cattle Dog) walk by my house every day! Good weather and bad! Isn't that AWESOME! He said she is the reason why he is more active now then ever before....great blog Erin!

  • Awww, what a wonderful article - and what wonderful therapy! I know when I'm having a down day, even looking at photos of animals lifts my spirits. It makes sense that it would be even more beneficial to people after surgery. :)

  • I could not agree more. During my dietetic internship, animals were brought in to visit the Senior Living Center and Cancer Center. Dogs and cats are incredible when it comes to stress relief. They are always happy and truly a great distraction from troubling health or emotions.

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