Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine

Cooley LF, Barker, S.B. (2018). Canine-Assisted Therapy As An Adjunct Tool In The Care Of The Surgical Patient: A Literature Review and Opportunity For Research. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine.


The use of canine-assisted therapy (CAT) in healthcare is expanding and the purpose of this review is to highlight its potential use in the surgical patient. While CAT literature to date has detailed widespread benefits in blood pressure control and improving pain, anxiety, and stress, little research has been performed specifically in surgical patients who may benefit significantly from CAT interventions. Critical points highlighted herein are as follows: (1) Hypertension is common and significantly increases morbidity and mortality associated with elective surgery. Pet ownership and brief CAT interventions (5-20 min) have demonstrated significant reductions in blood pressure and blood pressure variability in both adult and pediatric populations. (2) Pain management is of utmost importance in hospitalized, surgical patients and unfortunately the growing opioid addiction epidemic has complicated our ability to treat postoperative pain. CAT interventions have been shown to reduce self-reported pain. Therefore, CAT represents a cost-effective, safe, and noninvasive approach to pain management. (3) Patient satisfaction is of growing concern as reimbursement by Medicare, Medicaid, and other insurers is now linked to patient reported satisfaction with their hospital stay. While very limited data is available on this subject, some studies have showed that CAT intervention, specifically, improved patient reported satisfaction in multiple categories of the HCAHPS survey compared with patients who did not receive CAT. Overall, this is a novel narrative review detailing the therapeutic efficacy of CAT, highlighting the specific indications of CAT in the surgical patient, and urging further research of CAT in the surgical patient.