Meet the Labrador who's making all the difference to patients in a Wellington intensive care unit

An intensive care unit isn't where you'd usually expect to see a dog, but after seeing its own success, Wellington Hospital is encouraging other health boards around the country to try the benefits of pet therapy.

Oxford’s visits are proving so successful other health boards want to try pet therapy. Source: 1 NEWS

Registered therapy dog, Oxford the Labrador, has become a celebrity at the hospital.

Therapy dogs visit schools, rest homes, and hospices but this is the first time in New Zealand a therapy dog has been allowed in an Intensive Care Unit. 

His owner Rick said they were both a bit nervous going into the ward for the first time, "I nearly fainted" he said.

Nurse Tracy McKee had heard about the benefits of pet therapy and pushed for Wellington Hospital to try it.

"Research shows it lowers their blood pressure and heart rate, their stress and anxiety levels,” said Ms McKee.

Oxford is credited with helping the recovery of a child who couldn't move. After a visit from Oxford she voluntarily put her hand out to pat him.

"Since then she's recovered quite well," said Rick. "Oxford and I went to her 21st birthday."

Ms McKee said it is "really rewarding."

"Everybody really does appreciate Oxford coming. It just breaks up that intensive care environment."

She said she fields a lot of emails about having a dog in the intensive care unit, but said she "can’t recommend it enough."