Animal Assisted Intervention Research

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As a charity, we talk every day about the bond between humans and animals. Usually, we are referring to the physiological and biological connections of diseases and conditions that impact all species. But what about the emotional bond we share?

Therapy dogs who bring smiles to the faces of patients have become more recognised in recent years, providing support to those in ill health, but can dogs really play an instrumental role in the treatment and recovery of patients?

Pets as Therapy dog handlers Lyndsey Uglow and Karen Ramsay and their therapy dogs Leo, Jessie, Totty, Hattie and Archie will be working over an initial period of 12 months with The Humanimal Trust, undertaking dedicated research into Animal Assisted Intervention (AAI) at Southampton Childrens Hospital, part of University Hospital Southampton NHS Trust.

AAI has many modalities incorporating Animal Assisted Activity, Animal Assisted Education, Animal Assisted Play Therapy and Animal Assisted Therapy. The latter is goal-directed intervention in which an animal that meets specific criteria is an integral part of the treatment process delivered by a volunteer handler and dog team with specialised expertise and in partnership with the patients’ medical team.

In the first instance, we will look at experience feedback from the children, their parents and professionals who have had direct experience of the therapy dog teams at Southampton Children’s Hospital.

As we progress we will look at the physiological impact of this. For example, is this a psychological ‘nice feeling’ or is there a real physical impact on things like heart rate, blood pressure, and adrenaline? What about engagement and patient compliance with treatment and therapies? And what impact does all this have on the recovery of a patient?

Our starting point is the impact of therapy dogs with children, but the same principles could over time be mirrored into other departments and on into veterinary care and how we look after animals during their veterinary health care provision – Do animals recover better in a veterinary hospital or with their family? Do human family visits aid animal recovery?

The outcomes of this research will be documented, measured and evaluated and regular updates will be shared on The Humanimal Trust website.

For more information about this research, please contact: aai@humanimaltrust.org.uk

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