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.