Animal Therapy

Animal-assisted therapy is known to have many positive effects on patients of all ages.  Research shows that animal therapy can lower stress and anxiety levels, improve blood pressure, increase patient mobility, and provide an alternative focus from pain.

For more than 90 years, animal therapy has been in place in some form in our pediatric care programs at University of Michigan.  While much has changed since the days of ducklings paddling in tubs alongside patient beds, our commitment to the healing power of the human-animal bond remains strong.


As part of our animal therapy program, we are proud to have four full-time service dogs on our team.   

Our hospital dogs, Denver Anna, Bindi and Fawn were trained by Canine Assistants to work in a hospital setting. They were specifically matched to Michigan Medicine based on our needs and the types of patients we care for.

While Denver, Bindi, and Fawn work “full-time” in C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, Anna shares her time between Mott and some of the adult inpatient units at Michigan Medicine.  No matter where they are, all dogs are here to comfort patients and families through bedside visits, as well as motivate and assist during certain types of therapy and rehabilitation.


In addition to our hospital dog program, we also host visits from Therapaws of Michigan. Therapaws teams have been visiting University of Michigan Health System patients since 1987.  There are currently more than 25 teams that visit various U-M Health System locations.  Therapaws volunteers (owner and dog) are matched with units and visit patients during regularly scheduled visits. Unit Hosts select and prepare patients to receive visits from these canine companions. Therapaws of Michigan uses a strict screening protocol to ensure the selection of well-mannered dogs of sound temperament and good health.

Under the supervision of trained volunteers, these special dogs visit patients in a variety of settings: their inpatient rooms; during physical and occupational therapy sessions; in waiting rooms, and in other settings deemed appropriate by hospital staff.

Through the Therapaws Pet By Rx program, special requests for dog visits can be accommodated if a team is available outside regularly scheduled visits.  To schedule a visit between a Mott patient and a therapy dog, speak to the patient’s unit host, nurse or doctor who will work with our Volunteer Services department to arrange the visit.

Safety and Infection Control

Our facility dog and volunteer-dog handlers always get permission before a dog enters a patient’s room.

To further protect the health of our patients, dogs are unable to visit children who are under isolation precautions.  Dogs are bathed on regular schedules and handlers follow strict hygiene and maintenance standards.  Everyone who pets the dogs should cleanse their hands before and after to limit the spread of germs.

If you are uncomfortable around dogs or allergic to them, please let the dog’s handler or one of your caregivers know.

Supporting animal-assisted therapy

Our animal therapy programs are made possible only through the generosity of donors.  Click here to support our animal therapy programs.