Amy Spurgeon | Hannah Ellis | 2022

Animal Assisted Therapy in Hospitals

To what extent is animal assisted therapy (AAT) beneficial for the psychological wellbeing of hospitalised children?


Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) is a relatively new approach to health intervention that has been used increasingly over the past few decades . AAT is defined as ‘the use of trained animals by trained health professionals to facilitate specific, measurable goals for individual patients for whom there is documented progress’. The most used animal therapists are dogs or cats but may also include birds, guinea pigs, fish, and horses. This paper will analyse the existing literature and discuss how AAT, specifically the use of dogs, can help hospitalised children (under the age of 18) cope with the psychological stress of hospitalisation by relieving stress/anxiety, reducing isolation, and facilitating the adaptation to an unknown environment. We will also review the risks associated with AAT and analyse their influence on the treatment’s level of success.