Canine-Assisted Therapy Improves Well-Being in Nurses

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 Sep 30;16(19):3670. doi: 10.3390/ijerph16193670.


As nursing is one of the most stressful occupations worldwide, its management warrants more attention to identify possible ways to cope with its pressures. This study aims to evaluate whether animal-assisted therapy (AAT) with the presence of a dog affects the stress level of nurses. As a stress biomarker, we used salivary cortisol level testing. Twenty female nurses (mean age: 30) in physical medicine (PMR) (n = 11) and the department of internal medicine and long-term care (IM < C) (n = 9). On each of the three observed days, saliva was collected at 10 a.m. and then again after 50 min. The first sampling was performed during a normal working process without a break (Condition A), the second was carried out during a normal working process with a break of choice (Condition B), and the third sampling was performed during a normal working process with a break with AAT (Condition C). All participants were enrolled in all three interventional conditions in a randomized order. The results demonstrated the effect of a reduction of cortisol levels in Condition C, where AAT was included (p = 0.02) only in nurses recruited from the IM < C department. By way of explanation, nurses from the PMR department already showed low cortisol levels at baseline. We propose including AAT with a dog in healthcare facilities where nurses are at a high risk of stress.

Keywords: Healthcare providers; animal-assisted therapy; cortisol; dog-assisted therapy; stress.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animal Assisted Therapy*
  • Animals
  • Czech Republic
  • Dogs*
  • Female
  • Hospitals, Military
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / analysis
  • Nurses / psychology*
  • Occupational Stress / metabolism
  • Occupational Stress / prevention & control*
  • Saliva / chemistry


  • Hydrocortisone