Hospitals are being encouraged to bring animals on to wards by leading nurses.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has set out the first protocol for safe "animal therapy", where patients can benefit from interacting with animals, usually dogs, brought to their bedside.
A previous poll of nurses found that while the majority thought animals were beneficial to patients, most nurses said animals were not allowed in their workplace.
The RCN said concerns have rightly been raised about bringing dogs into a clinical environment, but many healthcare settings are "too concerned" to try out animal therapy.
To "dispel these fears", the RCN's latest document highlights the precautions that should be taken when bringing dogs into various health care settings.
The guidance includes information on infection control, allergy considerations and other health and safety issues.
Amanda Cheesley, RCN professional lead for long-term conditions and end-of-life care, said: "Anyone who has worked in this area can see the amazing impact animals have on the health of adults and children alike.
"However, there are so many myths around the dangers of having animals in health care settings that most organisations are too concerned to try it out.
"This protocol will help to dispel these fears by supporting hospitals to include animals in the care they deliver in a safe and professional way.
"We hope that it will encourage all health services to consider how animals can help their patients and help us to remove the taboo from what is a really remarkable area of care."