The aim of this study was to investigate the effectiveness of animal-assisted intervention as distraction for reducing children's pain and distress before, during, and after standard blood collection procedure. Fifty children (ages 4-11 years) undergoing venipuncture were randomly assigned to the experimental group (EG; n = 25) or to the control group (CG; n = 25). The blood collection procedure was carried on the children in the EG arm in the presence of a dog, whereas no dog was present when venipuncture was conducted on children in CG. In both cases, parents accompanied the child in the procedure room. Distress experienced by the child was measured with the Amended Observation Scale of Behavioral Distress, while perceived pain was measured with a visual analog scale or the Wong Baker Scale (Faces Scale); levels of cortisol in blood also were analyzed. Parental anxiety during the procedure was measured with State Trait Anxiety Inventory. Children assigned to the EG group reacted with less distress than children in the CG arm. Furthermore, cortisol levels were lower in the EG group compared with the CG group. There were no significant differences in pain ratings and in the level of parental anxiety. It appears that the presence of dogs during blood draw procedures reduces distress in children.
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