Animal-assisted interventions in internal and rehabilitation medicine: a review of the recent literature.
ABSTRACT While conventional wisdom has always affirmed the value of animals in promoting human well-being, only recently has their therapeutic role in medicine become the focus of dedicated research. Therapeutic modalities that use animals as a tool for improving the physical, emotional, cognitive and/or social functioning of humans are called animal-assisted interventions (AAI), and are classified into: animal-assisted activities (AAA); animal-assisted therapy (AAT); and service animal programs (SAP). The aim of this review is to analyze the papers published between 2001 and 2010 in the most influential medical journals dealing with AAI, and discuss their findings in the light of what may be of interest for internal medicine and rehabilitation. A total of 35 articles met the strict inclusion criteria for this review: 18 papers dealing with AAA, 8 with AAT, and 9 with SAP. The therapeutic outcomes associated with AAA are: enhancement of socialization; reduction of stress, anxiety and loneliness; improvement in mood and general well-being; and development of leisure/recreation skills. Regarding AAT, horses are often used as a complementary strategy to facilitate the normalization of muscle tone and improve motor skills in children with cerebral palsy and persons with lower limb spasticity. Finally, most SAP utilize dogs, that assist people with various disabilities in performing everyday activities, thus reducing their dependence on other persons. Further studies are needed to better define the fields and programs for the therapeutic use of animals and to increase their utilization in medicine, as a promising, complementary and natural means to improve both functional autonomy and quality of life.
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ABSTRACT: Exercise therapy is an important part of symptomatic and supportive treatment in patients with multiple sclerosis (PwMS). According to the literature, equine-assisted therapies--such as therapeutic horseback riding (THR) and hippotherapy (HT)--are exercise therapies that can have positive physical effects on coordination, muscle tone, postural alignment, stiffness/flexibility, endurance and strength, correcting abnormal movement patterns and improving gait and balance. While HT is known to have a positive effect on balance in PwMS, data about THR are limited. The aim of the present work was to determine the effect of THR on the balance and gait of ambulatory PwMS. Twenty-seven PwMS were included in the study. Patients were divided into two groups: 12 underwent THR and 15 traditional physiotherapy (for both groups, two series of 10 weekly sessions were performed). Before and after the study period, the following outcome measures were applied: Extended Disability Status Scale (EDSS), Barthel Index, Tinetti Performance-Oriented Mobility Assessment (POMA). In addition, patients of the THR group underwent a gait analysis to assess spatiotemporal gait parameters and ground reaction forces. Results: The THR group showed a significant improvement in POMA scores (p<0.005) and two gait parameters: stride time (p<0.04) and ground reaction forces (p<0.01). No statistically significant change was found in the control group. The results of the study show that THR can improve balance and gait of ambulatory PwMS. Findings are preliminary, but promising and in line with the recent literature.Giornale italiano di medicina del lavoro ed ergonomia 10/2011; 33(4):462-7.
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ABSTRACT: OBJECTIVES.: Animal-assisted therapy using dogs trained to be calm and provide comfort to strangers has been used as a complementary therapy for a range of medical conditions. This study was designed to evaluate the effects of brief therapy dog visits for fibromyalgia patients attending a tertiary outpatient pain management facility compared with time spent in a waiting room. DESIGN.: Open label with waiting room control. SETTING.: Tertiary care, university-based, outpatient pain management clinic. SUBJECTS.: A convenience sample of fibromyalgia patients was obtained through advertisements posted in the clinic. INTERVENTIONS.: Participants were able to spend clinic waiting time with a certified therapy dog instead of waiting in the outpatient waiting area. When the therapy dog was not available, individuals remained in the waiting area. OUTCOME MEASURES.: Self-reported pain, fatigue, and emotional distress were recorded using 11-point numeric rating scales before and after the therapy dog visit or waiting room time. RESULTS.: Data were evaluated from 106 therapy dog visits and 49 waiting room controls, with no significant between-group demographic differences in participants. Average intervention duration was 12 minutes for the therapy dog visit and 17 minutes for the waiting room control. Significant improvements were reported for pain, mood, and other measures of distress among patients after the therapy dog visit, but not the waiting room control. Clinically meaningful pain relief (≥2 points pain severity reduction) occurred in 34% after the therapy dog visit and 4% in the waiting room control. Outcome was not affected by the presence of comorbid anxiety or depression. CONCLUSIONS.: Brief therapy dog visits may provide a valuable complementary therapy for fibromyalgia outpatients.Pain Medicine 11/2012; 14(1). DOI:10.1111/j.1526-4637.2012.01522.x · 2.24 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: OBJECTIVE: The aim of this literature review was to assess the effects of Animal-Assisted Interventions (AAI) on elderly patients with dementia or various psychiatric disorders. METHODS: We conducted a comprehensive literature search using the online PubMed network of the US National Library of Medicine & National Institutes of Health, Embase, PsycINFO, with the purpose of investigating AAI effects on cognitive functions, mood, and behaviour. RESULTS: A total of 18 articles on dementia and 5 on psychiatric disorders were included in the present review. AAI were found to have positive influences on demented patients by reducing degree of agitation and by improving degree and quality of social interaction. Few studies have assessed the effects of AAI on mood, and even fewer have assessed its consequences on cognitive functions. The results that are available indicate a positive effect on communication and coping ability, but none on cognitive performance. A substitute pet robot yielded encouraging results, but its use requires further investigation. The few studies conducted for elderly patients presenting a variety of psychiatric diagnoses produced controversial findings. CONCLUSIONS: In spite of the encouraging results of AAI, much more research examining the issue of optimal AAI duration, frequency of sessions, and suitable target group is needed.Journal of Psychiatric Research 01/2013; 47(6). DOI:10.1016/j.jpsychires.2012.12.014 · 4.09 Impact Factor