Welcome Wellness - Wags, Whiskers, and Wellness

By the Department of Psychiatry’s Wellness Officer, Dr. Deirdre Conroy:

There is an abundance of research that supports the positive impact that a pet can have on ones’ wellness (Wells et al 2019). There are few other times in our lives that have made us realize just how comforting pets can be than during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially for those who live without other humans.

For these reasons and more, it can be quite traumatizing if we are hospitalized suddenly and there is no one to care for our beloved pet. This can play a major role in the decision of a patient to defer a necessary medical procedure, decline hospital admission, leave admission prematurely, or against medical advice, which could all affect health outcomes.

Fortunately, a team at Michigan Medicine is conducting research on the need for pet care for hospitalized patients. The hope is that a system can be established in the future to address pet care needs for hospitalized patients. As highlighted recently in Michigan Medicine Headlines, Carri Polick, R.N., a doctoral student at the U-M School of Nursing, and colleagues conducted a study in which they administered a questionnaire to 113 patients (Polick et al 2021). Most patients (63%) reported

challenges in securing their own pet care during a prior hospitalization or knew someone who had similar challenges. This negatively impacted the patient’s health and recovery.

This study highlights the importance of pets in our lives and urges hospitals and other health care facilities to consider this in the formula for maintaining the patient’s health and wellbeing.


  1. Wells DL. The state of research on human–animal relations:implications for human health. Anthrozoös. 2019;32(2):169-81.
  2. Polick CS, Applebaum JW, Hanna C, et al. The Impact of Pet Care Needs on Medical Decision-Making among Hospitalized Patients: A Cross-Sectional Analysis of Patient Experience. Journal of Patient Experience. January 2021. doi:10.1177/23743735211046089


View all of Dr. Conroy's articles on the Welcome Wellness homepage.