National Pet Week is May 2-8.

Nurse Janet Eggiman reports a 10-year-old girl with post-traumatic stress disorder and a history of physical and sexual abuse. Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) was used as part of a broader cognitive behavioral therapy, with a dramatic change in behavior.

Interesting, but of greater interest is the literature review of the history of AAT presented by Ms. Eggiman.

No double blind comparative trials, but a series of case histories and descriptive reports.

  • 1998: Buster the dachshund as an adjunct to play therapy helped reduce anxiety and helped a child disclose abuse.
  • 1999: Murphy the Labrador Retriever helped a 4-year-old child with cerebral palsy take her first step.
  • 2001: Cody the Labrador helped 14 children with multiple disabilities to improve their attention span, physical movement, communication, and compliance.
  • 2003: Using therapy dogs at a reading program in Salt Lake City, all children increased their reading level by 2 grade levels, and some by 4 grade levels, at 13 months.
  • 2004: A study of middle-aged schizophrenic patients showed that over a 9-month program, patients showed improvement in adaptive functioning. At the beginning of each session, the therapy dog went around asking for affection.

I know what you’re thinking. We wouldn’t accept this level of evidence for other CAM therapies.

I agree, but stories of cute little animals melt my heart.

There’s more here.

Illustration: Laboratorio Scuola

10/17/06 22:19 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.