Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The scientific benefits of pet therapy

Melo, the therapy dog, is coming to visit us on Thursday, September 29 from 6-730 pm!  Have you ever wondered about the science behind pet therapy?  Read on!

According to Berek (2013), "the idea that animals could play an important part in human well-being was first considered seriously in 1980, when E. Friedmann and colleagues conducted a ground-breaking scientific experiment that showed that people who owned pets lived longer than people who do not own pets. This study became the catalyst for many more studies documenting the ways in which animals can help people heal physically and psychologically. The concept of animal-assisted therapy (AAT) holds that animals can positively impact a patient’s cognitive, emotional, or social well-being. Toward this end, many facilities encourage interaction between patients and specially trained or chosen animals to brighten moods, lower blood pressure, and alleviate anxiety" (para. 1).

Pet therapy is often referred to as animal-assisted therapy (AAT) in the scholarly literature.  A systematic review published in 2014 of the literature on AAT has shown that "overall it was associated with moderate effects in improving outcomes in four areas: autism-spectrum symptoms, medical difficulties, behavioral problems, and emotional well-being" (Kamioka et al, p. 371).

AAT has been studied in a wide variety of contexts (as you can see from the Recommended Reading list below) including undergraduates on college campuses, elderly people with dementia and pregnant women.

To find more articles on AAT, try searching the library databases for "pet therapy" or "animal-assisted therapy."  Add in more keywords if you are interested in a particular demographic group or disorder.

If you are particularly interested in the health benefits of pet therapy, you may also want to try some of our Health and Human Services databases, such as CINAHL or Medline.  Future teachers may want to try ERIC, an educational database.

References and Recommended Reading:

Berek, D. M. (2013). Animal-assisted therapy (AAT). Salem Press Encyclopedia.  LINK.

Crump, C., & Derting, T. L. (2015). Effects of Pet Therapy on the Psychological and Physiological Stress Levels of First-Year Female Undergraduates. North American Journal Of Psychology, 17(3), 575-590. LINK.

Kamioka, H., Okada, S., Tsutani, K., Park, H., Okuizumi, H., Handa, S., & ... Mutoh, Y. (2014). Effectiveness of animal-assisted therapy: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Complementary Therapies In Medicine, 22(2), 371-390. doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2013.12.016. LINK.

Lynch, C. E., Magann, E. F., Barringer, S. N., Ounpraseuth, S. T., Eastham, D. G., Lewis, S. D., & Stowe, Z. N. (2014). Pet therapy program for antepartum high-risk pregnancies: a pilot study. Journal Of Perinatology: Official Journal Of The California Perinatal Association, 34(11), 816-818. doi:10.1038/jp.2014.120.  LINK.

Olsen, C., Pedersen, I., Bergland, A., Enders-Slegers, M., & Ihlebæk, C. (2016). Effect of animal-assisted activity on balance and quality of life in home-dwelling persons with dementia. Geriatric Nursing, 37(4), 284-291. LINK.

Stapleton, M. (2016). Effectiveness of Animal Assisted Therapy after brain injury: A bridge to improved outcomes in CRT. Neurorehabilitation, 39(1), 135-140. doi:10.3233/NRE-161345. LINK.

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