10 minutes with therapy dog ‘can reduce pain, anxiety and depression’ in A&E

Patients in the emergency department reported significant positive changes to how they were feeling after the interaction.

09 March 2022

Spending just 10 minutes with a therapy dog reduced pain, anxiety and depression in emergency department patients, according to a new study.

After visits from the animals, patients reported significant positive changes to how they were feeling.

Almost half of the patients (48%) who were visited by the therapy dogs and their teams saw a reduction in anxiety, while 43% reported a drop in their pain, 48% in anxiety, 46% in depression, and 41% reported improved wellbeing.

Dr Colleen Dell, of the University of Saskatchewan, Canada – who led the study, said: “The findings of this study contribute important knowledge towards the potential value of emergency department therapy dogs to affect patients’ experience of pain, and related measures of anxiety, depression and well-being.

“This is the first controlled trial of its kind in Canada — and elsewhere as far as we know.”

Dr James Stempien, provincial head emergency medicine, said: “The emergency room is a hectic place, and as an ER doctor myself, I know that anything we can do to improve the patient experience is welcomed.”

The research, published in PLoS One, suggests that although it is not known what is behind how interactions with therapy dogs, and more specifically therapy dog teams, affect human emotions like anxiety, the findings are relevant to the broader conversation on the bond between humans and animals.

St John Ambulance therapy dog teams were introduced for 10-minute visits to 97 patients at the Royal University Hospital (RUH) emergency department in Saskatoon, and their responses were compared to 101 patients who did not interact with the dogs.

More from Perspective

Get a free copy of our print edition


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.
You need to agree with the terms to proceed

Your email address will not be published. The views expressed in the comments below are not those of Perspective. We encourage healthy debate, but racist, misogynistic, homophobic and other types of hateful comments will not be published.