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Measuring Clinical Outcomes of Animal-Assisted Therapy: Impact on Resident Medication Usage

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Objective: To measure changes in medication usage of as-needed, psychoactive medications and other select as-needed medication usage as a result of a therapy dog residing in the rehabilitation facility. Additional measures are participants' thoughts and feelings on quality-of-life factors.

Design: One group, pretest, post-test.

Setting: Residential rehabilitation facility.

Participants: Convenience sample, N = 58 residents living at the facility.

Intervention: A certified, trained therapy dog.

Main Outcome Measure(s): Changes in as-needed medication usage for the following categories: analgesics, psychoactive medications, and laxatives, as well as changes in vital sign measurements of blood pressure, pulse, respiration rate, and body weight. Additionally, changes in the residents' perception of quality-of-life factors.

Results: One of the three monitored drug classes, analgesia, revealed a decrease in medication usage (mean = 2.6, standard deviation “SD” +/- 6.90, P = 0.017), and one of four monitored vital signs, pulse, showed a decrease (mean = 5.8, SD +/-7.39, P = 0.000) in study participants exposed to the therapy dog. Positive changes were reported in study participants' quality of life.

Conclusion: The benefits to human welfare as a result of the presence of a therapy dog have the potential to decrease medication usage for certain conditions in long-term care patients as well as decrease costs. Pharmacist involvement in animal-assisted therapy has the potential to make unique and measurable improvements to best patient care.

Abbreviation: AAT = Animal-assisted therapy. Consult Pharm 2007;22:580-5.
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Keywords: Analgesics; Animal-assisted therapy; Laxatives; Medication usage; Psychoactive medications; Quality of life

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2007

More about this publication?
  • The Consultant Pharmacist® is the official peer-reviewed journal of the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists. It is dedicated exclusively to the medication needs of the elderly in all settings, including adult day care, ambulatory care, assisted living, community, hospice, and nursing facilities. This award-winning journal is a member benefit of ASCP. Individuals who are not members and wish to receive The Consultant Pharmacist® will want to consider joining ASCP.
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