Many of us have 4-legged friends who we consider members of our families.  I for one can’t imagine life without a dog, when I was born my parents already had 4-legged children and I have had a dog ever since.  Some of you may have dogs, cats, horses, or pigs that you love, and the idea of living without them would definitely be a big adjustment.

Animals especially dogs have been used to help humans in so many ways: as guides for the blind and deaf, search and rescue, to notify owners of health incidents (blood sugar or seizures), psychotherapy for children, etc.  Now researchers are looking at the possible long-term benefits of animal-assisted therapy for those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) with dogs can provide people a companion and a non-judgmental listener, it also may help to reduce agitated behaviors and increase social interaction.

A pilot study by Dr. Nancy Richeson (2003) looked at the effects of AAT on agitated behaviors in those with dementia.  For three weeks participants spent one hour a day in small groups with a therapeutic recreation professional, a therapy dog, and a handler.  Richeson found that there was a significant decrease in agitated behaviors among participants; however, these effects were no long apparent at follow-up three weeks after the intervention was complete.  Social interactions also increased, some family members and caregivers even commented on participants talking endlessly about the dogs.

Animal interaction can definitely be a comforting activity for animal lovers regardless of age or cognitive ability.  There are now organizations across the country that provide these types of therapeutic opportunities some that serve Texas include: Therapy Pet Pals of Texas, Therapy Dogs International and Faithful Paws, .  If this is something you or a loved one may benefit from it is definitely worth looking into.

Our Guest Blogger this week is Danielle Rohr, Special Projects Coordinator, Texas AHEC East, North Central Region.


Richeson, N. E. (2003). Effects of animal-assisted therapy on agitated behaviors and social interactions of older adults with dementia.  American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias, 18(6).

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