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.
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.
More Press Releases
Healthy Paws Foundation Joins Forces with the Human Animal Bond Research Institute
Healthy Paws Foundation, the charitable arm funded in part by Healthy Paws Pet Insurance – the #1 customer-rated provider of insurance for dogs and cats— and the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) have joined forces; Healthy Paws Foundation has made a contribution to support the HABRI’s research on the mental and physical health benefits of owning a pet. Healthy Paws will sit alongside other leaders in the pet care community on the HABRI Steering Committee. This commitment focuses on creating awareness of “the pet effect”, including health benefits for people and improved health and welfare for pets. Scientific evidence shows that companion animals can help prevent cardiovascular disease, reduce depression, and provide support for conditions ranging from Alzheimer’s to autism spectrum disorder to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). HABRI reports that pet ownership saves $11.7 billion in U.S. healthcare costs. The human-animal bond is also good for pets. A recently-published survey by HABRI found that when pet parents are educated on the scientific research on the health benefits of pets, 89 percent said they would be more likely to take better care of their pets. “We believe in the work HABRI is doing. Their research tells us that companion animals have a positive health impact; so while pets are an important part of the family, they’re also significant to our wellbeing,” said Rob Jackson, Chief Pet Protector at Healthy Paws. “It’s a mutually beneficial relationship, too – the knowledge that a human-animal bond increases their own health and wellness motivates pet parents to take better care of their pets. This means providing the best pet medical care is of utmost importance.” “Healthy Paws is a leader in the growing pet insurance business because they recognize the powerful human-animal bond that makes pets part of our families,” said Steven Feldman, HABRI Executive Director. “Research shows that when we take better care...
Embrace Pet Insurance Supports Human-Animal Bond Research
The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) announced today that Embrace Pet Insurance, one of the highest-rated U.S. pet insurance companies, has become an official supporter of HABRI and its research on the human health benefits of companion animals. “When pet owners become part of the Embrace family, we strive to strengthen the human-animal bond, especially when pet parents need it most,” said Ambrish Jaiswal, CEO of Embrace Pet Insurance. “By supporting HABRI, Embrace Pet Insurance is proudly helping to advance human-animal bond research that demonstrates the positive role that healthy pets play in our lives.” “We know from research that pets are considered part of the family, and that pet owners want what’s best for their four-legged family members,” said Steven Feldman, Executive Director of HABRI. “Embrace helps to provide and sustain healthy pets, so that, as family, they are protected against unexpected accidents and illnesses.” Scientific evidence increasingly shows that pets improve heart health; alleviate depression; increase well-being; support child health and development; and contribute to healthy aging. In addition, companion animals can assist in the treatment of a broad range of conditions from post-traumatic stress to Alzheimer’s disease to autism spectrum disorder. The benefits of the human-animal bond impact more than just human health. Findings from a recent HABRI survey of 2,000 pet owners demonstrate that knowledge of the scientific research on the human-animal bond motivates pet owners to take better care of their pets. From providing pets with higher quality nutrition to purchasing pet health insurance, spreading awareness of the health benefits of pet ownership improves pet health and welfare. “Embrace believes in giving back to the pet care community, and supporting HABRI research is perfectly aligned with our company values. We look forward to playing a supportive role for HABRI and helping discover more ways in...
Treat Planet Supports Human-Animal Bond Research
The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) announced today that Treat Planet, makers of natural, eco-friendly pet products, has become an official supporter of HABRI and its research on the human health benefits of companion animals. “As makers of the best darn treats on the planet, Treat Planet provides man’s best friend with the best quality nutrition to keep them healthy and happy,” said Doug Martin, President of Treat Planet. “HABRI’s research shows that by maintaining a pet’s health, pet owners can improve their own health and well-being. Through supporting HABRI, Treat Planet is now advancing the human-animal bond through scientific research and quality nutrition, and we couldn’t be more proud.” “Recent HABRI research found that when educated about the health benefits of the human-animal bond, pet owners are more likely to provide their pets with higher quality nutrition, including treats,” said Steven Feldman, Executive Director of HABRI. “Not only is Treat Planet furthering its own mission through joining other leading companies and organizations from the pet care community that support HABRI, but it’s also contributing to a broader purpose of ensuring that more people can improve their health and quality of life through pet ownership.” Scientific evidence increasingly shows that pets improve heart health; alleviate depression; increase well-being; support child health and development; and contribute to healthy aging. In addition, companion animals can assist in the treatment of a broad range of conditions from post-traumatic stress to Alzheimer’s disease to autism spectrum disorder. The benefits of the human-animal bond impact more than just human health. Findings from a recent HABRI survey of 2,000 pet owners demonstrate that knowledge of the scientific research on the human-animal bond motivates pet owners to take better care of their pets. From providing pets with higher quality nutrition to more frequent visits to the...