Preliminary data with canine interactions show strong promise to improve psychosocial outcomes for hospitalized children. It is crucial now to move the science forward with a rigorous study design to examine canine therapy with children with a life-threatening condition (LTC) to determine variables contributing to best outcomes with regard to patient and family well-being and quality of life (QoL) in the face of a LTC.
Objective 1: Examine feasibility of AAI sessions for children with a LTC and primary caregiver to: a) identify and document modifications for a safe and feasible intervention, b) obtain recruitment estimates and determine potential recruitment barriers, c) evaluate elements of implementation fidelity (design, training, delivery/receipt of treatment, enactment), and d) verify safety.
Objective 2: Determine the preliminary efficacy of AAI sessions for 1) children with a LTC for the outcome of health-related quality of life (HRQoL), 2) primary caregivers of children with a LTC for the outcomes of stress and anxiety.
H1-1: Children and parents (>60%) will complete the interventions and provide positive acceptability data.
H1-2: Implementation fidelity can be achieved with the proposed methodology.
H2-1: Children with a LTC who receive AAI will experience improved HRQoL more than patients who do not receive AAI.
H2-2: Children with LTC who receive AAI will have improved health-related quality of life (HRQOL) more than patients who do not receive AAI.
H2-3: Primary caregivers of children with a LTC who receive AAI will experience decreased stress and anxiety more than parents of children who do not receive AAI.
Unlike much of the existing research in the human-animal interaction field, this carefully designed study will benefit from expertise of a multi-disciplinary team, a randomized control cohort, reliable established measures, and will assess outcomes in this vulnerable population.