New Research Says Therapy Dogs Are OK! | HABRI

New Research Says Therapy Dogs Are OK!

HABRI-Funded Study Finds Dogs Are Not Stressed When Visiting Pediatric Cancer Patients

HABRI-Funded Study Finds Dogs Are Not Stressed When Visiting Pediatric Cancer Patients

Washington, D.C. (January 2, 2018) — The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) announced today the publication of a study exploring the impacts of therapy dog sessions on the welfare of the dogs involved. Conducted by researchers at American Humane, findings of the study demonstrate that dogs did not show increased stress resulting from the therapy visits. Funded by HABRI and Zoetis, American Humane’s newly-released “Canines and Childhood Cancer Study,” is one of the largest human-animal bond studies focusing on the impact of animal-assisted interaction (AAI) on children with cancer and their parents, as well as the participating therapy dogs.

“Results of this study demonstrate that dogs did not show increased behavioral or physiological stress, indicating that placing therapy dogs in this type of therapeutic setting does not cause undue stress to the animals,” said Amy McCullough, PhD and Principal Investigator, American Humane. “This research will help American Humane, HABRI and practitioners in the field to maintain the highest standards of animal welfare.”

“This research project is important because now we have strong evidence that, with proper training and handling, the welfare of therapy animals in hospital settings is not adversely impacted,” said HABRI Executive Director Steven Feldman. “As more animals are deployed to help hospital patients, we can be confident that the dogs are OK!”

Dr. McCullough, along with Ashleigh Ruehrdanz, MPH and Molly Jenkins, MSW of American Humane, supervised data collection on participating handler-dog teams at five children’s hospitals across the United States. The objective of the study in regard to participating canines was to determine the stress levels of therapy dogs during regular AAI sessions with pediatric oncology patients and their families.

The research team videotaped each animal-assisted therapy session and coded the dogs’ behavior using an ethogram developed to capture affiliative and stress-related behaviors. The frequency of each behavior was coded from the videos and a score was determined for each. In total, more than 400 videos of the AAI sessions were coded. In addition, handlers completed the Canine Behavioral Assessment and Research Questionnaire (C-BARQ) upon entering the study, and completed a self-report measure regarding their dog’s behavior as well as AAI activities and participants after each session. The results showed that participating canines did not have significantly increased physiological or behavioral stress responses while participating in AAIs in pediatric oncology settings.

The researchers also measured canine stress through salivary cortisol levels, with a total of nearly 600 saliva samples collected and analyzed over the course of the study. Trained handlers obtained saliva samples from their dog using a swab. A series of five saliva samples taken at prescribed times (morning; noon; night; introduction of a trigger (therapy bandana or vest; upon arrival at the hospital) were averaged to produce a baseline cortisol level for each dog. Post-session saliva samples were taken 20-30 minutes after initiation of the AAI session. No significant differences in salivary cortisol levels between baseline and AAI sessions were found.

“In addition to these promising findings, it is important for therapy animal organizations, handlers and the health care facilities where they serve to meet high standards of care and welfare for the animals involved,” Feldman added.

About HABRI

HABRI is a not-for-profit organization that maintains the world’s largest online library of human-animal bond research and information; funds innovative research projects to scientifically document the health benefits of companion animals; and informs the public about human-animal bond research and the beneficial role of companion animals in society. For more information, please visit www.habri.org.

About American Humane

American Humane is the country’s first national humane organization, founded in 1877. To learn more about American Humane and its 140 years of work in building a better world for animals and strengthening the human-animal bond, please visit www.AmericanHumane.org.

Contact

Jamie Baxter

jamie@theimpetusagency.com

775.322.4022

###

Press Releases
New Research Indicates Shelter Cat Fostering Reduces Loneliness in Older Adults Living Alone

The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) announced the results of a HABRI-funded feasibility study that suggests fostering a shelter cat may contribute to alleviating loneliness and improving mental health in older adults living independently alone. This study, published in the Journals of Gerontology, Series B, was conducted by researchers at the University of Georgia and Brenau University. The research team, led by Dr. Sherry Sanderson, DVM, PhD, Associate Professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine, explored the impact of fostering a shelter cat on loneliness and well-being in older adults living alone. The research also investigated whether these older adults would express interest in adopting their foster cat after common barriers, such as access to veterinary care, were removed. “The ill-effects of loneliness and social isolation, particularly for older adults, are well-documented, and more strategies are needed to improve health outcomes for this population,” said Dr. Don Scott, MD, MHS, Campus Director of Geriatrics and Palliative Care and Associate Professor of Medicine at August University-University of Georgia Medical Partnership, and co-investigator on this research project. “This project shows that fostering cats can make a measurable difference in the lives of older adults living alone.” “Our results show that by removing some perceived barriers to pet ownership, including pet deposit fees, pet adoption fees, pet care supplies and veterinary support, we can not only help older adults live healthier, happier lives but we can also spur the fostering and adoption of shelter cats into loving homes,” added Dr. Sanderson. Study participants were recruited through in-person presentations and flyers posted at The Athens Community Council on Aging (ACCA), regional community organizations, senior living facilities and local and regional publications. Participants completed health...

Press Releases
Royal Canin and HABRI Partner to Highlight the Importance of Cat Urinary Health and the Human-Animal Bond

The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) and Royal Canin have teamed up to protect the human-cat bond by delivering important information to cat owners about their cats’ urinary health. “Research shows that house soiling is the #1 reason that cats are relinquished to a shelter[1], yet many cats presenting to veterinary clinics with lower urinary signs are diagnosed with a medical condition,” said Dr. Angela Hughes DVM PhD, Scientific Communications Veterinarian for Royal Canin. “Royal Canin is focused on improving cat health and welfare by educating current and future cat owners about the importance of cats’ urinary health.” Studies show that 60% of cat owners say they only take their cat to the veterinarian when they notice something is wrong[2], but cats are notorious for hiding pain, making it difficult for owners to recognize a health issue. For example, over 90% of cats with feline lower urinary tract signs have blood in their urine indicating a medical condition, but less than half of owners recognize the signs[3].  Instead, these signs may be misinterpreted as a behavioral issue, negatively impacting the human-cat bond. “Helping cat owners stay curious and informed about their cat’s health, even when it comes to litter box behavior, leads to healthier, happier lives together,” said Steven Feldman, President of HABRI. “Our cats do so much for us, which is why we need to do more for them.” Research shows that cats can serve as a source of social and emotional support for their owners and can help reduce stress, support older adults as they age and improve heart rate and blood pressure. HABRI and Royal Canin are working to strengthen the human-animal bond and improve the veterinary care that cats receive by spotlighting the science of the human-animal bond and important information about cat health. HABRI and Royal Canin have partnered together to create educational content, including an article, shareable infographic, a series of social...

HABRI