Measuring the Effects of an Animal-Assisted Intervention for Pediatric Oncology Patients and Their Parents: A Multisite Randomized Controlled Trial [Formula: see text]

J Pediatr Oncol Nurs. 2018 May;35(3):159-177. doi: 10.1177/1043454217748586. Epub 2017 Dec 21.


Objective: This multicenter, parallel-group, randomized trial examined the effects of an animal-assisted intervention on the stress, anxiety, and health-related quality of life for children diagnosed with cancer and their parents.

Method: Newly diagnosed patients, aged 3 to 17 years (n = 106), were randomized to receive either standard care plus regular visits from a therapy dog (intervention group), or standard care only (control group). Data were collected at set points over 4 months of the child's treatment. Measures included the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory™, Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory, Pediatric Inventory for Parents, and child blood pressure and heart rate. All instruments were completed by the child and/or his/her parent(s).

Results: Children in both groups experienced a significant reduction in state anxiety ( P < .001). Parents in the intervention group showed significantly decreased parenting stress ( P = .008), with no changes in stress among parents in the control group. However, no significant differences between groups over time on any measures were observed.

Conclusions: Animal-assisted interventions may provide certain benefits for parents and families during the initial stages of pediatric cancer treatment.

Keywords: animal-assisted intervention; health-related quality of life; parent; pediatric oncology; stress.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Animal Assisted Therapy / methods*
  • Anxiety / therapy*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Patients / psychology*
  • Quality of Life / psychology*
  • Stress, Psychological / therapy*