Author: Charles Frank

Animal assisted intervention: A systematic review of benefits and risks PMC

what is animal assisted therapy

Required ongoing education to the animal and owner and liability insurance covering the animal and owner during volunteer activities. Understanding what emotional intelligence looks like and the steps needed to improve it could light a path to a more emotionally adept world. There are concerns that people may become dependent on the animal and could interfere with the recovery process for PTSD.[98] People may feel as though they cannot do things on their own without the presence of the animal.

She has also researched a wide variety psychology and public health topics such as the management of health risk factors, chronic illness, maternal and child wellbeing, and child development. This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors. Three investigators (EC, GP and GV) independently conducted a first literature search, sorting sources by title and abstract.

what is animal assisted therapy

The AAA, as described above, is slightly structured and it includes, primarily, pet-visitation. These kind of activities are in general spontaneous, grouping several patients, and poorly standardized with regard to duration and type of activities. On the contrary, the AAT sessions are strictly organized considering both the activity type and the duration. Indeed, each AAT session presents individualized goals and is conducted by specifically trained couples (handler and animal) [3].

Occupational therapy

Animal-assisted therapy is used to enhance and complement the benefits of traditional therapy. AAT, on the other hand, usually starts from the patient’s perspective, identifying the patient’s needs and finding a suitable animal. They may not choose this type of therapy as it would cause them more stress. These will include checking immunization records and performing physical exams to ensure that the animal is generally healthy and free of disease.

  1. Studies suggest that people who pet animals experience the release of serotonin, prolactin and oxytocin hormones that can play a part in elevating moods.
  2. They may also support people with physical health conditions in coping with those conditions’ emotional and mental components, or helping to reduce the amount of medication they take.
  3. To our knowledge, no previous reviews estimated the evidence on the use of animal-interventions for inpatients.
  4. Similar guidelines are adopted also in hospital implementation protocols [42], [43].
  5. The client, therapist, and animal work together in therapeutic activities that are outlined in a treatment plan, with clear goals for change, measurable objectives, and the expectation of identifiable progress toward the treatment goals.

Besides, the effects of AAI were assessed focusing on physiological parameters. The most assessed were blood pressure [6], [27], outlining a significant effect in decreasing this parameter, heart rate [13], [28], [35] and respiratory rate [13], [35]. Indeed, Cole et al. did not identify any significant change in this parameter [13]. Another positive effect outlined was the actual distance walked in patients with chronic heart failure [29]. Four studies evaluated the satisfaction after the intervention and the effects on psychosocial behaviors [8], [22], [24], [25], instead four considered also physiological phenomena [23], [26], [27], [28].

Animal assisted intervention: A systematic review of benefits and risks

There may be a chance of them spreading these infections to other people, making thorough testing important for any animal. However, people who are afraid of animals or who don’t like them may not be a good fit for animal therapy. The experience could cause additional stress that outweighs the potential benefits. There are many benefits of animal therapy that go well beyond feelings of comfort and emotional support. The Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) is a health intervention, meant to improve physical, social, emotional or cognitive functioning, with animals as integral part of the treatment [1].

AAA are delivered in a variety of environments by a specially trained professional, paraprofessional, and/or volunteer in association with animals that meet specific criteria. These are generally the basic short meet-and-greet sessions of pets visiting people in a hospital, long-term care center, etc. Specific treatment goals are not planned for each visit, detailed notes and documentation are not required, and visits are spontaneous and can be as short or long as necessary. Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) is an alternative or complementary type of therapy that includes the use of animals in a treatment. The goal of this animal-assisted intervention is to improve a patient’s social, emotional, or cognitive functioning.

Animal-assisted therapy is rooted in the bond that can develop between people and animals. Animals can provide a sense of calm, comfort, or safety and divert attention away from a stressful situation and toward one that provides pleasure. Animals can help combat loneliness and boost social support, both through interactions with the animal and interactions that involve other people. Animals can lead people to get more physical activity than they would otherwise. Additionally, some long-term care facilities may offer pet therapy programs to help improve the mood and general well-being of people in these facilities.

Physiological effects

Studies have documented some positive effects of the therapy on subjective self-rating scales and on objective physiological measures such as blood pressure and hormone levels. A study in Psychogeriatrics found that dog assisted therapy in long-term elderly care facilities helped reduce symptoms of depression. The research suggests that the dogs help facilitate social interaction and create positive emotional responses. Characteristics of the retrieved studies regarding animal interventions risks in healthcare settings. The table reported information about the study design, the setting, the type of intervention considered (including the assessed animals), the major risks identified and the findings. An accurate knowledge of the effectiveness and risks of animal use in hospital is essential to implement effective strategies in this setting.

Where Animal Therapy Is Offered

The positive interactions with an animal may lead to benefits in the mind and body, such as reduced stress and an overall more balanced mental and emotional state. People with compromised immune function should check with their healthcare team prior to trying animal therapy because animals may carry diseases without their handlers being aware of them. Those with allergies or open wounds that could be infected also should be cautious. This article will explain types of animal therapy, the conditions in which animal therapy may offer benefits, who facilitates and provides animal therapy, and more. It can be used to help people with a wide range of challenges, from helping to build communication skills in autistic children to managing grief, loss, and stress in older adults. Animal therapy can be used alone or with other treatment options including medications and talk therapies.

Most children have experienced positive emotional connections with animals while growing up. They amuse and entertain us, make us feel needed, and ask for little in return except to be loved, respected and cared for. In an age where traditional extended families are disappearing, 99% of pet owners consider pets their closest companions and family members. The researchers note that the therapy may be beneficial for people from many different age groups with various conditions.

Animal therapy, also called pet therapy or animal-assisted therapy, is any type of therapy that integrates dogs, horses, and other animals. Significant amelioration in depressive symptomatology was highlighted in psychiatric inpatients [19] and hospitalized women with at risk pregnancy [33]. In addition, an improvement in depression symptoms, even if not statistically significant, was observed for elderly institutionalized patients with age-related diseases [6]. The impact on depression required more in-depth analysis, especially considering the different scales used for its assessment.

How Animal Therapy Works

However, all studies considering this issue identified a general acceptance by the staff [22], [34], [36]. Finally, Hastings et al. investigated the use of a bi-weekly dog-visitation in a Burn Intensive Care Unit and a Burn Acute Care Unit [36]. In order to guarantee the security of these patients, all the Protection Equipment guidelines were respected. Nearly all comments were positive and only three patients (0.5%) refused the proposed sessions, reporting fear. The number of dog-visits significantly increased during the observation, and no infection nor issues animal-related were reported [36].