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Effects of an animal-assisted intervention on social behaviour, emotions, and behavioural and psychological symptoms in nursing home residents with dementia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Sandra Wesenberg, Christoph Mueller, Frank Nestmann, Vjera Holthoff-Detto

Original languageEnglish
Early online date4 Nov 2018
Accepted/In press24 Sep 2018
E-pub ahead of print4 Nov 2018


King's Authors


The positive effects of animal-assisted interventions (AAIs) in people with dementia have been frequently reported in the literature. However, it remains unclear if the positive effects are directly due to the presence of the animal. The aim of this study was to investigate if the inclusion of an animal adds value to psychosocial interventions for people with dementia.
The study followed a within-subject design with two studied conditions (AAI and control intervention) and several measurement points (baseline (i.e. at beginning of the intervention), after 3 months, and after 6 months). Nineteen nursing home residents with dementia participated in the AAI (with a dog) and the control intervention. Both interventions were delivered as weekly group sessions over a period of 6 months. Outcomes examined were social interaction, emotional expression, and behavioural and psychological symptoms. These outcomes were evaluated by using video recordings at baseline and after 3 and 6 months.
Nineteen patients with moderate to moderately severe dementia who lived in two nursing homes in Germany were included. During the AAI, we detected significantly longer and more frequent periods of positive emotions (pleasure) and social interaction (e.g. touch, body movements) than during the control intervention.
The presence of a dog appears to have beneficial effects on psychosocial interventions for people with dementia.

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