A Pilot Study to Examine the Impact of a Therapy Dog Intervention on Loneliness and Related Health Outcomes in Vulnerable Populations

  • End date
    Mar 26, 2024
  • participants needed
  • sponsor
    Virginia Commonwealth University
Updated on 26 November 2021


The purpose of this research study is to test whether an animal-assisted interaction (AAI) intervention is better than conversation with another person or treatment as usual for improving mood, anxiety, loneliness, quality of life, and indicators of health care services such as number of hospitalizations, length of hospital stay, and cost of services. Participants will be patients admitted for an inpatient stay at Virginia Commonwealth University Health who meet the study entry requirements.


Participants will be randomly assigned (like the flip of a coin) to receive one of the following interventions:

  1. Animal-assisted interaction (a dog-handler team will visit them in their hospital room)
  2. Conversational interaction with just participants and the handler
  3. Treatment as usual (the regular services patients are currently receiving in the hospital)

Participation in this study will last six months. This includes the three days on which participants will receive one of the interventions described above, plus completing some questionnaires online or by phone one month and six months after the baseline visit. These questionnaires will ask questions about pet ownership, relationship with pets participants have had, loneliness, depression, anxiety, health-related quality of life, significant life events in the past year, and social supports. Approximately 180 individuals will participate in this study.

Condition Anxiety Disorders, Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD - Pediatric), depressive disorder, quality-of-life, ANXIETY NEUROSIS, miserable, Depression (Major/Severe), Endogenous depression, depressive disorders, anxious, Depressed, Loneliness, Quality of life, Depression (Adolescent), depressed mood, anxiety disorder, Anxiety, Depression, Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Depression (Pediatric), Anxiety Disorders (Pediatric), Anxiety Symptoms, Depression (Treatment-Resistant), Depression (Adult and Geriatric)
Treatment Animal-assisted interaction, Conversational control
Clinical Study IdentifierNCT05089201
SponsorVirginia Commonwealth University
Last Modified on26 November 2021


Yes No Not Sure

Inclusion Criteria

years of age or older
Projected to be admitted to the hospital for the upcoming four days
Speak English
Able to provide consent

Exclusion Criteria

Fear of, or allergy to, dogs
Documented contact precautions
Cognitive impairment that prevents consent or completion of measures
Clear my responses

How to participate?

Step 1 Connect with a study center
What happens next?
  • You can expect the study team to contact you via email or phone in the next few days.
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Additional screening procedures may be conducted by the study team before you can be confirmed eligible to participate.

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If you are confirmed eligible after full screening, you will be required to understand and sign the informed consent if you decide to enroll in the study. Once enrolled you may be asked to make scheduled visits over a period of time.

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Complete your scheduled study participation activities and then you are done. You may receive summary of study results if provided by the sponsor.

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