Each year, people across the United States experience mental health challenges, such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Various interventions for mental health conditions exist, including the use of service dogs or the implementation of dog visitation for people experiencing mental illness and/or associated symptoms. This scoping review intends to explore the benefits of dog therapy for people experiencing mental health deficits.
A systematic search was conducted online via PubMed to identify peer-reviewed literature relevant to use of service dogs or dog visitation in the treatment of mental health disorders. Articles from this database were screened using predefined inclusion and exclusion criteria. Once appropriate studies were obtained, data were extracted, summarized, and analyzed to draw conclusions.
After review of articles on PubMed, a total of 6 articles were identified and included. The selected literature was comprised of 5 quantitative studies and 1 meta-analysis. Both types of studies revealed either positive or null effects of service dog-based therapy in patients with mental health disorders studied (depression, anxiety, and PTSD). When increased positive outcomes were observed, they were detected across all the mental illnesses reviewed.
Dog-based therapy may be a beneficial alternative option for people with mental illness. Dogs provide companionship and comfort. As such, dog-based therapy has the potential to strengthen mental health for individuals who suffer from mental illness. More research is needed to assess this type of intervention for other mental illnesses not included in this review (due to the nature of the studies based on inclusion and exclusion criteria).
Finkle, Nina, "Evaluating the Effects of Dog-Based Therapy on Mental Illness" (2023). Master of Public Health Capstone Presentations. Presentation 485.