The effects of a companion animal on distress in children undergoing dental procedures

Le Ann Havener, Lisa Gentes, Barbara Thaler, Mary E. Megel, Mara M. Baun, Frank A. Driscoll, Soraya Beiraghi, Sangeeta Agrawal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


The purpose of our pilot study was to evaluate the effects of a companion animal (dog) on physiologic arousal and behavioral distress among children undergoing a dental procedure. A repeated measures experimental design was used to study 40 children between the ages of 7 and 11 years who were undergoing procedures in a pediatric dental clinic. Half the children had the dog present during the procedure and half did not. Data were obtained before, during, and after the procedure. Behavioral distress was measured using the Observational Scale of Behavioral Distress; procedures were videotaped. Physiologic arousal was measured using a YSI telethermometer taped to the child's index finger. Student's t-test and repeated measures analysis of variance were used to answer the research question. No significant differences in behavioral distress or physiologic arousal were found between experimental and control groups. Further analysis revealed that for children who initially verbalized distress on arrival at the clinic, the presence of the dog decreased physiologic arousal during the time the child was on the dental table waiting for the dentist to arrive. Further research should be conducted to verify the effect of a companion animal on initial stress experienced by children for whom the visit to the dentist is most stressful.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)137-152
Number of pages16
JournalComprehensive Child and Adolescent Nursing
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2001


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