Date of Award
Selective Evidence-Based Medicine Review
Master of Science in Health Sciences - Physician Assistant
Physician Assistant Studies
Objective: The objective of this selective EBM review is to determine whether or not animal-assisted therapy reduces anxiety in pediatrics.
Study Design: Three randomized controlled trials (RCTs) published between 2015 and 2017 were reviewed. All studies compared the effects of animal assisted therapy to a control group consisting of a simple distracting game or medical treatment alone on the self-reported anxiety levels of patients receiving medical treatment under the age of 18.
Data Sources: All sources were published in English in peer reviewed journals within the last 10 years (2008-present). They were found using databases such as PubMed, Cochran library, and EBSCOhost Web.
Outcomes Measured: Level of anxiety. Two articles measured anxiety with the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) questionnaire filled out by the patient. One article measured anxiety with a self-reported, 11-point numeric rating scale (NRS) that examined how nervous, afraid, or worried the patient reported feeling.
Results: None of the three articles found there to be a significant decrease in anxiety following animal-assisted therapy when compared to the control group for children receiving medical treatment (McCullough A, Ruehrdanz A, Jenkins MA, et al. J Pediatr Oncol Nurs. 2018;35(3):159-177, Branson SM, Boss L, Padhye NS, Trötscher T, Ward A. Journal of pediatric nursing. 2017;36:84‐91. doi: 10.1016/j.pedn.2017.05.006, Barker SB, Knisely JS, Schubert CM, Green JD, Ameringer S. Anthrozoos. 2015;28(1):101-112. doi: 10.2752/089279315X14129350722091).
Conclusions: It does not appear that animal-assisted therapy generally reduces anxiety in pediatric patients, though it was reported to be an enjoyable and safe experience and should still be considered for those who would like to try it at facilities who offer AAT (McCullough A, Ruehrdanz A, Jenkins MA, et al. J Pediatr Oncol Nurs. 2018;35(3):159-177, Branson SM, Boss L, Padhye NS, Trötscher T, Ward A. Journal of pediatric nursing. 2017;36:84‐91. doi: 10.1016/j.pedn.2017.05.006).
Carroll, Kimberly, "Does Animal-Assisted Therapy Reduce Anxiety in Pediatrics?" (2020). PCOM Physician Assistant Studies Student Scholarship. 566.