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Stress level evaluation in a dog during animal-assisted therapy in pediatric surgery

By C. Palestrini, V. Calcaterra, S. Cannas, Z. Talamonti, F. Papotti, D. Buttram, G. Pelizzo

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Abstract

Animal-assisted interventions are associated with positive effects on human psychological and physiological health. Although quality standards in animal-assisted interventions appear to be high, only few investigations have focused on potential welfare implications in therapy dogs. In the present study, we monitored behavioral measures and heart rate in a therapy dog that participated in animal-assisted therapy during postoperative awakening in a pediatric surgery ward. Work-related activity, behavior, response to human action, and heart rate were analyzed for more than 20 working sessions in an experienced therapy dog. No physiological or behavioral indicators of stress, fatigue, or exhaustion were present during animal-assisted therapy, suggesting that, with the limited generalizability of a case study, this activity did not negatively impact on the welfare of the dog. Further investigation into the effects of animal-assisted therapy on dogs' physiological markers and behavior is warranted.

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