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J Cardiovasc Nurs. 2011 May-Jun;26(3):224-30. doi: 10.1097/JCN.0b013e3182010bd6.

Impact of canine-assisted ambulation on hospitalized chronic heart failure patients' ambulation outcomes and satisfaction: a pilot study.

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Cardiac ICU and Cardiac Step Down, South Jersey Healthcare-Regional Medical Center, Vineland, New Jersey 08360, USA.



Chronic heart failure (HF) is a prevalent and costly disease process. Early ambulation has been shown to have a positive impact on patient outcomes and length of stay. Animal-assisted therapy is a novel modality that has shown to be a safe and effective adjunct to a number of traditional treatment plans. This study sought to synergistically combine ambulation and animal-assisted therapy by using canine-assisted ambulation (CAA) to improve the ambulation outcomes of HF patients.


Sixty-nine hospitalized patients with a primary diagnosis of HF were approached to ambulate with a restorative aide. After recording their initial response, they were given the opportunity to participate in CAA (walking with a therapy dog). Initial ambulation refusal rate was compared with a historical population of 537 HF patients. Distance ambulated was recorded using a pedometer and compared with a randomly selected, 64-patient sample from the historical HF patient population, stratified by day of hospital stay. Patient satisfaction was assessed through a 5-item Likert scale survey.


The 537-patient historical HF population had an ambulation refusal rate of 28%. When offered the chance to participate in CAA, only 7.2% of the study population refused ambulation (P = .0002). Of the 69-patient study sample, 13 initially refused ambulation then agreed when offered CAA (P = .0009). Distance ambulated increased from 120.2 steps in a randomly selected, stratified historical sample to 235.07 in the CAA study sample (P < .0001). Patients unanimously agreed that they enjoyed CAA and would like to participate in CAA again. Canine-assisted ambulation is a safe and effective adjunct to an early ambulation program for HF patients. Canine-assisted ambulation may decrease hospital length of stay and thereby decrease the costs of HF care. Additional research involving CAA's application to other disease processes in various settings is warranted.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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