Patients recovering from total joint replacement surgery who receive animal-assisted therapy require less pain medication than those who do not experience this type of therapy, according to new research.
These data were published in the August/September issue of Anthrozoos by researchers from Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and Loyola University Health System. Anthrozoos is the official journal of the International Society for Anthrozoology.
Animal-assisted therapy has been used in a variety of healthcare settings to improve quality of life and physical, social, emotional and cognitive health for patients.
The animal-human connection is powerful in reducing stress and in generating a sense of well-being, lead author Julia Havey, RN, MSN, CCM, Loyola University Health System, said in a news release. This study further demonstrates the positive influence animals can have on human recovery.
This retrospective study measured the need for oral pain medication in 92 patients, who were split into two groups. One group was exposed to animal-assisted therapy, and the other was not. The groups were similar in age, gender, ethnicity, length of stay and type of total joint replacement. The therapy consisted of daily visits from specially trained dogs for an average of five to 15 minutes. The need for oral pain medication was 28% less in the animal-assisted therapy group (15.32 mg vs. 21.16 mg).
This study offers interesting observations about the healing potential of animals, co-author Fran Vlasses, RN, PhD, NEA-BC, ANEF, FAAN, associate professor and chair of the Health Systems, Leadership and Policy Department at the Niehoff School of Nursing, said in the release. The efficacy of animal-assisted therapy in decreasing the need for pain medication, and its effect on patient well-being after surgery deserves further study.