Animal-assisted therapy as a pain relief intervention for children

Carie Braun, Teresa Stangler, Jennifer Narveson, Sandra Pettingell

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152 Scopus citations


Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) is a healing modality involving a patient, an animal therapist, and handler with a goal of achieving a specified therapeutic outcome. Despite the myriad of studies documenting the benefits of AAT, no studies have yet determined the impact of animals on alleviation of pain in children. Therefore, a quasi-experimental intervention design was used to capture the change in pain and vital signs with (n = 18) or without (n = 39) AAT in children ages 3-17 in one acute care pediatric setting. The AAT intervention group experienced a significant reduction in pain level compared to the control group, t(55) = -2.86, p = .006. Although blood pressure and pulse were not impacted, respiratory rates became significantly higher in the AAT group (by an average of 2.22 breaths/min) as compared to the control group, t(55) = -2.63, p = .011. This study provides further support to the numerous health benefits of AAT, particularly for children in pain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)105-109
Number of pages5
JournalComplementary Therapies in Clinical Practice
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The researchers acknowledge Rena Sespene-Hinz, St. Cloud Hospital Children's Center AAT program coordinator, J.P. and Kat, who were instrumental in facilitating this project. Also, a special thanks to the undergraduate nursing students who served as research assistants: Kristen Primus, Katherine Lauer, Erin McGowan, Christine Wurm, Ashley Paul, Amy Theisen, Peter Lund, Teresa Stangler, and Jennifer Narveson. This project was supported by a faculty development grant through the College of Saint Benedict/Saint John's University and student undergraduate research grants from the same institutions.


  • Animal-assisted intervention
  • Animal-assisted therapy
  • Pain
  • Pet therapy


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