IRB Number


Date of Award

Spring 4-25-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD)


Occupational Therapy

First Advisor

Kayla Collins

Second Advisor

Thais Petrocelli

Third Advisor

Mary Shotwell

Medical Subject Headings

Dementia, Depression, Blood Pressure, Social Interaction, Animal Assisted Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Quality of Life


The aim of this quantitative study was to examine the effects animal-assisted therapy (AAT) had on people diagnosed with dementia living in a nursing home. The study aimed to examine the effects AAT had on depression, blood pressure, social interaction, and how these factors impact quality of life (QOL). The study was conducted once a week for one hour on Thursdays for 6 weeks. 7 participants were included in the study and further broken down into two groups based upon their level of cognition as measured by the Mini-Mental Status Examination. Beck’s Depression Inventory (BDI) and the World Health Organization Quality of Life- BREF (WHOQOL-BREF) were administered pre and post AAT sessions to measure depression and QOL. Additionally, blood pressure recordings were taken pre and post AAT sessions.

The results from the BDI and WHOQOL-BREF did not produce statistically significant data which could be attributed to the small sample size and short duration of the study. On the other hand, blood pressure recordings did produce significant data meaning AAT did have an impact on blood pressure. Additionally, clinical observations were recorded throughout the study of the participant's behaviors when interacting with the therapy dog. This study showed AAT had a positive impact on blood pressure and behaviors as witnessed by blood pressure recordings and clinical observations. Further studies should be conducted to determine how AAT impacts depression and QOL using alternative assessments that do not include self-reports such as physiological assessments.


Capstone project submitted to the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Occupational Therapy