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