By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Loving licks for patients at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.  It’s where four legged friends help sick kids take a break from their troubles.

Abigail is here from Indiana being treated for pulmonary hypertension.  She loves spending time with the dogs in the pet therapy program.

“I like to snuggle,” said Abigail.

“It calms her down.  It relaxes her, puts a smile on her face, helps her forget about her disease, and what she’s going through,” said Julie Schultheis, Abigail’s mother.

CHOP’s pet therapy program is now being named after longtime supporter Gerald Shreiber.  With additional funding, the program is expanding from its current 24 to include 80 dogs, so more pets and patients will be able to interact.

“Pet therapy is one of those ways to really provide an environment to normalize the environment, to reduce the fears and anxieties children have and to help it feel more like home,” said Elana Brewer, Director of Child Life, Education and Art Therapy at CHOP.

While it’s easy to see the benefits, CHOP will now expand its research and document how animals can ease the anxiety of being hospitalized.

Lori Goodman and her dog Lucy are volunteers at CHOP.

“We walk through the hospital making many stops along the way for kisses and belly rubs,” said Lori.

CHOP will recruit 60 new pet therapy teams, double the number of weekly pet therapy visits, and expand therapy to other sections of the hospital.

The pet therapy program isn’t covered by insurance.  It depends on donations.

CHOP’s Pet Therapy Program Information-