Pet Therapy

Carilion Clinic Children’s Hospital offers pet therapy to patients and families. Therapy animals have been shown to improve health and lift the spirits of hospitalized children.


In pet therapy, animals become an integral part of the treatment process. Interacting with animals in a medical setting reduces stress and anxiety. Studies have shown that children benefit greatly from animal–assisted therapy. The results range from encouraging smiles and conversation to motivation during physical and occupational therapy sessions.

Some of the benefits of animal–assisted therapy:

  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Promotes socialization
  • Encourages caring touches
  • Distracts children from medical issues
  • Promotes laughter and play
  • Provides comfort
  • Creates home–like atmosphere
  • Relieves stress
  • Provides entertainment

Pet Partners

We partner with the Delta Society for weekly hospital visits by therapy animals. The Delta Society’s Pet Partners program screens and trains volunteers and their pets. If selected, these pets make visits to hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, schools and other facilities.

The Pet Partners program was established in 1990 to ensure that pets and their handlers were well-prepared to participate in animal–assisted therapy programs.

To learn more about the Pet Partners program or become a volunteer, visit the Delta Society website.

Friendly Animals Create Smiling Faces

Once a month, staff from the Mill Mountain Zoo bring animals to Carilion Clinic Children’s Hospital to visit our pediatric patients. This is a wonderful time for patients to get out of their room and visit with other children while seeing some cuddly or crawly animals.

This program increases peer interaction, normalization, and distraction from the ordinary hospital experience.

For questions regarding our Mill Mountain Zoo Visitation Program, contact the Child Life Department at 540-981-8099.