Measuring clinical outcomes of animal-assisted therapy: impact on resident medication usage

Consult Pharm. 2007 Jul;22(7):580-5. doi: 10.4140/tcp.n.2007.580.


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.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analgesics / therapeutic use
  • Animals
  • Animals, Domestic*
  • Assisted Living Facilities / statistics & numerical data
  • Cathartics / therapeutic use
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Dogs
  • Drug Utilization Review / methods
  • Drug Utilization Review / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Human-Animal Bond*
  • Humans
  • Long-Term Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Psychotherapy / methods*
  • Psychotropic Drugs / therapeutic use
  • Quality of Life
  • Skilled Nursing Facilities / statistics & numerical data
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Analgesics
  • Cathartics
  • Psychotropic Drugs