Background Recently, the affective relationship between humans and animals has shown a potentially beneficial effects in clinical domains. However, the claim of different studies of the benefits of animal-assisted activities (AAA) is still lacking evidence base data.
Objectives To gain insights into the effectiveness of AAA, physiotherapy and psychological support in SSc.
Methods 12 SSc female patients (mean age of 60.52±8.3) were treated once a week by a team made of a dog-handler a rheumatologist and a psychologist. They underwent 10 dog-assisted interventions. At onset and after 3 months, the questionnaires and self reports were completed: pain evaluation (VAS 0-100), emotional and affective evaluation (Happy Face-Sad Face Scale), state anxiety (STAI), and a specific designed self report on the liking and satisfaction of the AAA interventions (AAA-Q).
Results Significant improvements were reported for pain perception, mood, and other measures of distress among patients after AAA. Pain decreased significantly (p<0.05) in 73% of patients (VAS 0-100mm) after AAA (24.99 mm vs 16.18 mm). The regular interaction with dogs has showed to increase positive affective and social behaviors. Specifically, the emotional scale showed a significant enhancement of mood and positive feelings after AAA (1.98 vs 0.66) (p<0.05). We found increase social awareness, promoting social skills reducing anxiety and depressive symptoms (STAI X1->76±7.5 vs 62±4.3) significantly different before and after AAA (p<0.03).
Conclusions This is the first study measuring the efficacy of AAA (with dogs) on the physiological, emotional, social well-being and pain perception in SSc. The study provides the evidence for pain control with enhancement of the psychosocial well-being. AAA integrated with the traditional medical approach may provide a good support for SSc patients.
Disclosure of Interest None declared