Perceptions on Health Benefits of Guide Dog Ownership in an Austrian Population of Blind People with and without a Guide Dog

Animals (Basel). 2019 Jul 7;9(7):428. doi: 10.3390/ani9070428.


Blindness has previously been associated with impaired quality of life (QOL). Guide dogs may not only support blind people in their independency, but also facilitate social relationships and overall health. This study sought to investigate whether blind people from Austria with a guide dog, when compared with blind people without a guide dog, differ in their QOL, annual medical costs, and attitudes towards the human-guide dog relationship. Participants (n = 36) filled out an online accessible questionnaire that consisted of the World Health Organization (WHO)QOL-BREF and additional self-designed questions. Guide dog ownership was not associated with a better QOL. However, yearly medical cost expenditures were descriptively lower in guide dog owners, who were also more likely to believe that guide dogs can increase their independency and exert positive effects on health. Moreover, guide dog owners more likely considered a guide dog as a family member than non-guide dog owners. Although within the framework of this study, owning a guide dog was not significantly associated with increased QOL, some differences between the groups regarding health beliefs, attitude towards the dog, and relationship with the dog were identified. Accounting for the emerging prevalence of visual impairment, further research into this topic is warranted.

Keywords: attitude; blind people; dog ownership; guide dog; health; quality of life.