Original Article

Canine-Assisted Therapy in Hospitalized Patients Awaiting Heart Transplantation

Authors: David Snipelisky, MD, Jessica Smidt, BS, Shawn Gallup, RN, Jane Myrick, RN, Brent Bauer, MD, M. Caroline Burton, MD


Objectives: Patients awaiting heart transplantation can be listed for prolonged periods of time and, as a result, the prevalence of anxiety and depression is high. Our study evaluates the feasibility of canine-assisted therapy (CAT) in this population.

Methods: A prospective, multicenter study was performed on all status 1a patients admitted during a 12-month period to await transplantation. Patients were asked to complete the Generalized Anxiety Disorder 7-item scale and the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 at baseline, week 2, and week 6, and the Perceived Stress Scale at baseline and week 4. At the conclusion of the study, patients completed a questionnaire assessing the overall efficacy of CAT.

Results: Baseline measures demonstrated high levels of anxiety, depression, and stress. The complete Generalized Anxiety Disorder 7-item scale (average score 10.9 vs 8; P = 0.14) and the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (average score 12.3 vs 9.5; P = 0.057) scores decreased from baseline to week 6 and the Perceived Stress Scale (average score 29.8 vs 27; P = 0.16) decreased from baseline to week 4 with trends toward significance. All of the patients perceived CAT as improving the overall quality of hospitalization, would recommend CAT to other patients, and would elect for CAT during subsequent admissions. No infectious concerns were reported.

Conclusions: Anxiety, stress, and depression are prevalent among 1a heart transplantation candidates, and CAT is a welcomed adjunct to the usual medical care in this population.


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