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Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2009 May;15(2):105-9. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2009.02.008. Epub 2009 Mar 3.

Animal-assisted therapy as a pain relief intervention for children.

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College of Saint Benedict/Saint John's University, Dept. of Nursing, Saint Joseph, MN 56374, USA.


Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) is a healing modality involving a patient, an animal therapist, and handler with a goal of achieving a specified therapeutic outcome. Despite the myriad of studies documenting the benefits of AAT, no studies have yet determined the impact of animals on alleviation of pain in children. Therefore, a quasi-experimental intervention design was used to capture the change in pain and vital signs with (n=18) or without (n=39) AAT in children ages 3-17 in one acute care pediatric setting. The AAT intervention group experienced a significant reduction in pain level compared to the control group, t(55)=-2.86, p=.006. Although blood pressure and pulse were not impacted, respiratory rates became significantly higher in the AAT group (by an average of 2.22 breaths/min) as compared to the control group, t(55)=-2.63, p=.011. This study provides further support to the numerous health benefits of AAT, particularly for children in pain.

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