Sign In

Dog Assisted Therapy

December 8, 2020

A new study found that children and adolescents with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders showed reduced symptoms after dog-assisted therapy when administered alongside pharmacological treatment. The findings were published in Frontiers in Psychology.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) — a condition that arises from prenatal alcohol exposure — involves a range of cognitive, behavioral, sensory, and physical impairments. These difficulties often manifest as learning disabilities, poor social skills, and memory problems. To prevent these difficulties from impacting later life, early intervention in childhood and adolescence is crucial.

Study authors Raquel Vidal and team wanted to explore whether dog-assisted therapy (DAT) could be an effective addition to medication that would improve the treatment outcomes of young people with FASD.

A controlled study was conducted among a final sample of 33 youth with FASD who were between the ages of 6 and 18. Roughly half the group (17) was randomly assigned to attend dog-assisted therapy, while the other half (16) was assigned to continue with their treatment as usual. The DAT group attended 12 weekly sessions in the presence of a psychologist, two DAT specialists, and two therapy dogs. The therapy sessions targeted competencies such as emotional self-regulation, managing impulsivity, and social skills.

Both groups of young people were monitored to ensure the patients kept up with their prescribed medications as usual. All patients completed a variety of evaluations both one week prior and one week after the intervention.

When researchers compared the results from the two groups after the intervention, the differences were pronounced. The youth who had participated in the dog-assisted therapy intervention showed greater improvements in social skills and a greater reduction in the severity of FASD symptoms. They also showed greater reductions in externalizing symptoms (e.g., bullying, defiant behavior).

The authors highlight that not a single youth dropped out of the dog-assisted therapy — an encouraging sign considering that it can be difficult to keep individuals with FASD engaged. “DAT may be especially well suited to people with FASD,” the authors say, “because animals communicate non-verbally, which may be a less stressful form of interaction than a conversation which requires metacognitive and introspective aspects (Jones et al., 2019).” The researchers suggest that animals act as “social catalysts”, encouraging patients to communicate with others and thus paving the way for social and behavioral improvements.

Vidal nd colleagues note that while the positive results of the DAT intervention were compelling, these gains were short-term and it is unclear whether they would be maintained over time. The authors further add that it is unclear whether DAT would be effective on its own without medication, given that the intervention was conducted alongside pharmacological treatment.

Register your Dog Schedule a Visit

  • Recent News

    Students Get Therapy Dog

    When middle school students return to class on Jan. 11, they’ll find a new face at the door: Daisy. Daisy is a therapy dog and the personal pet of Rob Kreger, principal of the Rock L. Butler Middle School. The five-year-old golden retriever is not a school pet or mascot, but rather a working dog […]

    Read more

    Therapy Dogtor

    Last March, Caroline Benzel, a third-year medical student, began to notice the stress and discomfort her nurse friends were feeling from the pressures of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. “[Personal protective equipment] can be really rough on the skin,” Benzel, 31, tells PEOPLE. Benzel and her 3-year-old Rottweiler, Loki (who’s also a therapy dog) hatched a […]

    Read more

    Therapy Dog Pups

    When Stanley the miniature fox terrier’s owner passed away, the little dog started a ‘paw-some’ new role – bringing puppy love to some of the Gold Coast’s oldest residents. After Carinity Cedarbrook Diversional Therapist Julianne Staff adopted Stanley, he began visiting the aged care community at Mudgeeraba as a therapy dog. Therapy dogs help to […]

    Read more

    Therapy Dogs At School

    Those who own a dog can attest to their ability to lift mood, improve stress and bring joy by simply being there, unanswering, seemingly all-knowing and always delighted to see you.  Therapy animals are known for their calm and comforting nature, giving people a way to relax, de-stress and interact with a loving pet.  They […]

    Read more

    Wonder Dog

    For those of us with dogs, we know they quickly become major parts of the family. You live for and care for just like one of your own children, and one dog right here in Oklahoma City is beating the odds, and helping others recover as a therapy dog, despite all of the issues he’s […]

    Read more

    Scott And Charlie

    Cherokee Middle School students may do a little more “doodling” second semester starting this month (January), but also will improve their attendance marks because of a special attraction at the school, courtesy of Principal Scott Aden. Aden, an effective, caring administrator, has acquired and will house and handle a young female Golden Doodle (Charlie) that […]

    Read more

    Hope For Veterans

    E5 Therapy opened in April with a different way to help veterans in therapy. They offer canine-assisted therapy along with talk therapy to veterans and veterans’ families in Solano County. Owner Matthew Decker is a licensed clinical social worker in Northern California, focused on helping veterans achieve their mental health goals. Along with his team, […]

    Read more