THURSDAY, March 10, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Use of a therapy dog in the emergency department is associated with clinically significant changes in pain, according to a study published online March 9 in PLOS ONE.

Ben Carey, from the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Canada, and colleagues assessed changes in symptoms and physiologic variables at three time points before and after a 10-minute therapy dog team visit among emergency department patients experiencing pain (97 individuals). Results were compared to those of a control group of 101 patients experiencing pain but receiving no dog visit.

Comparing the preintervention period to the postintervention period, the researchers observed significant differences in pain for the intervention but not the control group. In the intervention group, there were also significant changes observed in anxiety, depression, and well-being ratings. For blood pressure and heart rate, there were no preintervention versus postintervention differences noted. Strong responses (i.e., >50 percent reduction) to the intervention were seen for pain (43 percent of patients), anxiety (48 percent), depression (46 percent), and well-being (41 percent).

“Observing a clinically significant change in pain, as well as significant changes in anxiety, depression, and well-being in the therapy dog intervention compared to the control group in this study is an important contribution to the literature and for future research and practice,” the authors write.

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