PICO Question: In adult patients, will animal assisted therapy increase quality of life?
Components/Processes: We searched CINHAL and PubMed using the terms “animal therapy,” “inpatient,” “quality of life,” “pet therapy,” “mood,” “anxiety,” “depression,” “QOL,” “animal assisted therapy,” “loneliness,” “dog therapy,” “cat therapy.” We selected five articles: two were experimental, two were quasi-experimental, and one was qualitative.
Discussion of Results: Most of the studies supported animal-assisted therapy as a useful intervention for increasing quality of life in adults. One study (Johnson, Meadows, Haubner, & Sevedge, 2008) did not find significance, because it concentrated on the comparison between the effects of animal-assisted therapy versus other standard therapies. So, they concluded as well as another study (Nepps, Stewart, & Bruckno, 2011) that animal-assisted therapy was as effective as other therapies, but was not significantly more effective. Therefore, the answer to our PICO question was that animal-assisted therapy is beneficial, but the usefulness in comparison to other therapies should be researched further.
Conclusions/Implications: All studies recognize the usefulness and potential benefits of animal-assisted therapy as adjunct therapy. Further research is needed to determine its effectiveness as a primary intervention, but all studies in this synthesis agree that it has benefits. Further research should include larger sample sizes, longer duration, follow-up quality of life measurements, and concentration on specific target populations.
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