Patients recovering from heart surgery at a hospital in Middlesex have been recommended to volunteer walking dogs at a local shelter as they recuperate from surgery.

The new scheme, called Hounds That Help, is an initiative that has been created by the Harefield Hospital and charity the Dogs Trust to demonstrate the health benefits of spending time with a dog.

Lynda Evans, a senior nurse at Harefield Hospital, said: “We are always looking for new ways to help patients to enjoy the best possible quality of life when they return home.

“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?”

Hounds That Help is part of a wider proposal to encourage GPs to promote dog ownership as a way of helping people staying healthy. Research has found that owning a dog can have a number of health benefits. This includes lowering blood pressure, reducing the risk of allergies in children and also contributing to positive mental health by lowering the likelihood of becoming depressed.

Dog owners are also found to make fewer visitors to their GP and spend less time in hospital, as well as recovering better from coronary surgery; there is a 94% survival rate for dog owners compared to an 84% rate for non-dog owners.

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