Research to Study Affect of Therapy Dogs on Children in Hospitals

The Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) Foundation recently awarded two grants, totaling $123,000, to study the affects of therapy dogs on children in hospitals.

Young Girl Being Visited In Hospital By Therapy Dog

The University of Tennessee received a $79,000 grant for a new study, The Effect of Animal-Assisted Intervention on Preoperative Anxiety and Dose of Sedation in Children. The study will examine the effect of animal-assisted intervention (AAI) on children’s anxiety levels and sedation medication dosages prior to surgery.

72 children between the ages of 2 and 17 will receive a therapy dog or an iPad tablet 20 minutes before sedation. Heart rate, blood pressure and medicine levels for sedation will then be evaluated for each group and compared.

It is expected that children provided with a therapy dog prior to surgery will have significantly lower preoperative anxiety and will require a decreased amount of medication for sedation compared to children who do not interact with a therapy dog.

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Duke University School of Medicine’s Division of Pediatric Cardiology also received a $44,000 grant for a new research study, Impact of Animal Assisted Therapy on Quality, Completeness, and Patient and Parental Satisfaction in Children Undergoing Clinical Echocardiography. This study will examine the influence of Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) on young children undergoing an echocardiogram.

150 children between the ages of 1 and 5 will be randomly assigned to a group: canine-assisted therapy only; canine-assisted therapy plus standard distraction techniques; and standard distraction techniques only. Quality, completeness and parental satisfaction of echocardiograms will be evaluated among the three groups, as well as reduction of stress or fear among the children.

It is expected that children will have a more complete and higher quality echocardiogram in the presence of therapy dogs. In addition, parents are expected to report higher visit satisfaction scores and greater exam comfort for their children.

For more information and to read about the innovative research projects HABRI has funded, visit their website.

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