Service dogs may help improve psychosocial health

Research by PU shows people with service dogs tend to have higher levels of social and emotional function and perform better at work and/or school

A new study suggests service dogs may have measurable effects on psychosocial health for individuals with physical disabilities or chronic conditions.

According to research by Purdue University’s (PU’s) College of Veterinary Medicine, people with a service dog exhibited significantly better psychosocial health compared to those on a waiting list for one. Those with service dogs were found to have higher levels of social and emotional function and perform better at work and/or school.

“Previous smaller and chiefly qualitative studies have found preliminary evidence that service dogs can have psychosocial benefits among individuals with physical disabilities, but the research has been limited,” said Tony Rumschlag, DVM, director of consulting veterinarians and U.S. companion animal business unit at Elanco.

“It’s gratifying to help further scientific understanding about the human-animal bond. As veterinarians, in-depth knowledge about the mechanisms of that relationship will enable us to truly partner with owners on pet care.”

During the study, 154 individuals participated in a cross-sectional survey, including 97 placed with a mobility or medical service dog and 57 on the waitlist to receive one.

Hierarchical regression evaluated the effect of having a service dog on standardized measures of psychosocial health, as well as anger, companionship, and sleep disturbance.

“The Impact of Service Dogs on Family Members’ Psychosocial Functioning” was led by Maggie O’Haire, PhD, associate professor of human-animal interaction at PU and graduate student Kerri Rodriguez, and was funded by Elanco Animal Health.

The results of the study were presented at the Veterinary Meeting and Expo (VMX) in Orlando, Fla.


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