Background “Pet Therapy”, better defined as Animal-assisted Intervention (AAI), is based on the interaction between animal and human being and is a tool which may complement and support traditional therapies. It can be used on patients affected by different diseases, improving their quality of life from behavioral, physical and psychosocial point of view.
Objectives The aim of our study was to evaluate the effect of AAI in improving quality of life and compliance to standard pharmacological treatment in a cohort of Systemic Sclerosis (SSc) patients.
Methods 42 SSc patients attending at Scleroderma Unit and undergoing iloprost intravenous infusion were divided in three groups: 1) 14 SSc patients (mean age 60.4±8.6 yrs) submitted to 20 AAI sessions with a professional team (doctor, nurse, couple of animal-handler); 2)control (C1) 14 SSc patients (mean age 63.4±5.3 yrs) engaged in alternative social activity as create a cookbook; 3)control (C0) 14 SSc patients (mean age 62.3±6.8 yrs) without any alternative activity. All patients underwent psychological evaluation at baseline (t0) and at the end of project of AAI (t1); moreover the following test (italian standardized version) was performed at the beginning (s0) and at the end (s1) of each single session: General Anxiety State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI-T), Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), Social Interaction Anxiety Scale (SIAS), Eysenck Personality Questionnaire-Revised (EPQ-R), the Social Phobia Scale (SPS), the Toronto Alexythymia Scale (TAS-20), the Thought Control Questionnaire (TCQ), the Visual Analog Scale (VAS), the State-anxiety (STAI-S).
Results At the end of each session, AAI group showed a decrease of the anxiety state level while it was higher in the two control groups (ps<0.001). VAS scale resulted lower both in AAI group (p<0.001) and in C1 group (p<0.01). Moreover, STAI-T and TAS scores were significantly reduced in AAI group at t1 compared to t0 and to both control groups (ps<0.001). No significant differences were found for depression in the BDI scores at the end of all sessions. TCQ scale showed that patients treated with AAI, compared to control group C0, had greater capacity to avoid unpleasant and unwanted thoughts by using positive distraction strategies (p<0.05).The EPQ-R test (used for analyze personality traits, such as extraversion/introversion) revealed in AAI group an enhancement of extroversion trait compared to both C1 and C0 (p<0.05).
Conclusions In agreement with literature , our work showed that AAI might be a crucial tool to support the traditional therapies thanks to the creation of a different relationship between patient and doctor. This may allow a better compliance to the therapy in a chronic disease like SSc, where patient's compliance is usually low.
Matuszek S. Animal-facilitated therapy in various patient populations: systematic literature review. Holist Nurs Pract. 2010 Jul-Aug;24(4):187–203.
Disclosure of Interest None declared