Pet Therapy Study to Examine the Effect of a Certified Companion Dog on the Anxiety and Pain of Children

This study included children receiving Botox injections during an outpatient visit in the sedation unit. The goal is to determine the effect of a certified companion dog on the anxiety and pain of children during initial treatment and the effect of repeated exposure at a second visit six to nine months later.

The procedure visits last three to four hours and involve placing an intravenous line, sedating the child, administering Botox (often 60-100 injections into muscles affected by cerebral palsy to help relax the muscles and increase mobility) and recovery. The dog and volunteer trainer are with the child and family throughout the procedure except during sedation. Eighty children have enrolled in the study.

Preliminary findings indicate the positive effect of having the dog present on the child’s self-reported pain and anxiety. In addition to the decreased anxiety the child feels, providers have needed to give less sedative medications allowing for a safer and shorter procedure. As one of the subjects said, "Because Lucy (the dog) is here, mom, did you notice I didn't even cry this time. It's the first time I haven't cried, she makes me happy."