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A friendly dog as potential moderator of cardiovascular response to speech in older hypertensives

By E. Friedmann, S. A. Thomas, L. K. Cook, C. C. Tsai, S. J. Picot

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As the population ages and obesity increases, the number of older adult hypertensives is rising dramatically. Uncontrolled hypertension (HTN) increases, and reducing blood pressure (BP), lowers cardiovascular, cerebrovascular, and renal morbidity and mortality. Cardiovascular reactivity, defined as exaggerated cardiovascular responses to various stressors, is associated with the development and progression of HTN and associated morbidity and mortality. Speaking is a social stressor, occurring frequently in daily life, that is accompanied by significant surges in BR. The current project was designed as a preliminary study to evaluate whether friendly dogs may be an effective intervention for moderating cardiovascular stress responses in older adult hypertensives. Cognitively intact, community-living older adults (n=11) with resting BPs in the pre- to mild hypertensive range (120-150/80-100 mmHg) participated in the study. The quiet-talk-quiet (QTQ) protocol was used to assess BP responses to speaking. The QTQ protocol, consisting of sitting silently for two minutes, talking for two minutes, and sitting silently for two minutes was repeated twice, once with an unfamiliar, friendly dog in the room, once without the dog. The dog was randomly assigned to be present either for the first or the second QTQ. An ANOVA or ANCOVA with repeated measures three-way interaction between dog presence (dog in, dog not in), activity (quiet, talk), and order (dog in first, no dog in first) was used to examine the moderating effect of the presence of the dog on cardiovascular reactivity to speaking; it was significant for diastolic BP (F(1,9)=12.8, p=0.006), and tended to be significant for systolic BP (F(1,8)=4.4, p=0.12). During speech, BP was (7/2 mmHg) lower when the dog was present than when it was not present. BP while sitting quietly did not differ according to the presence of a dog. Pets might provide a viable means of decreasing BP surges during stressful activities in older hypertensives.

Date 2007
Publication Title Anthrozoos
Volume 20
Issue 1
Pages 51-63
ISBN/ISSN 0892-7936
Language English
Author Address University of Maryland School of Nursing, 655 W. Lombard Street, Baltimore, MD 21201,
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal-assisted therapies
  2. Anthrozoology
  3. Blood Pressure
  4. Diseases
  5. Dogs
  6. Hypertension
  7. Mammals
  8. Older adults
  9. patients
  10. peer-reviewed
  11. Pets and companion animals
  12. Primates
  13. speech
  14. Stress
  15. Stress response
  1. peer-reviewed