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A Scoping Review of the Health and Social Benefits of Dog Ownership for People Who Have Chronic Pain

By Eloise C. J. Carr, Jill M. Norris, K. Alix Hayden, Rianne Pater, Jean E. Wallace

Category Journal Articles

Chronic pain is a significant cause of morbidity and disability globally. One potential strategy for the self-management of chronic pain is interacting with companion animals; more specifically, dogs. While studies of dog ownership suggest social, psychological, and health benefits to humans, the impact on chronic pain is unclear. The aim of this scoping review was to map the literature on dog ownership and wellbeing in people with chronic pain. This review followed the PRISMA-ScR (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analyses extension for Scoping Reviews) reporting guidelines. Twelve electronic databases and grey literature sources were searched for studies that included adults with chronic pain living with a dog. From 6,724 records, eight studies were included in the synthesis, including six cross-sectional survey studies and two qualitative studies. Studies specifically looking at pain provided mixed results, but people living with a dog reported better mental health. The health benefits related to social support for people living with a dog were reported as positive across several studies. Low-quality studies and variability in outcome measures limited comparisons across studies. The results of these eight studies suggest that the relationship between dog ownership and chronic pain is inconclusive and complex. Living with a dog for people who have chronic pain appears to provide positive benefits for some populations. Six studies were published after 2013 suggesting this important area of enquiry may be emerging as a new field in the study of the human– animal bond. Further research using qualitative, mixed methods, and longitudinal designs are needed to understand the potential mechanisms involved.

Publication Title Anthrozoös
Volume 33
Issue 2
Pages 207-224
ISBN/ISSN 0892-7936
DOI 10.1080/08927936.2020.1719761
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Chronic Pain
  2. Companion
  3. Dogs
  4. Human-animal interactions
  5. Reviews
  6. Well-being