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Table 1 An overview of the findings from the selected studies

From: Effectiveness of the dog therapy for patients with dementia - a systematic review


Characteristics of subjects

Description of intervention (type, period)

Assessment areas

Outcome measures

Results, statistically significant differences

Menna et al. [28]

50 individuals with mild-to-moderate AD, mean age 75 years, 37 females, 13 males.

3 groups – 2 intervention groups- reality orientation therapy (ROT) and AAT (20 subjects in each group) and 1 control group with no stimulation; once a week for 45 min for 6 months.

Cognitive skills (attention, language skills, spatial-temporal orientation), emotional aspects such as mood.

Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE), 15-item Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS), Bonferroni-Dunn test.

The findings indicate that both intervention groups improved their emotional status, i.e., the AAT group improved from 11.5 (T0) to 9.5 (T1), and the ROT group improved from 11.6 (T0) to 10.5 (T1) on GDS; and the AAT group also slightly enhanced their cognitive skills, i.e. mean MMSE was 20.2 at T0 and 21.5 at T1.

Olsen et al. [17]

49 subjects, out of which 21 were located in nursing homes and had severe dementia a 28 were home-dwelling with moderate dementia, mean age 84 years.

2 groups with the same group dog intervention therapy two times a week for 30 min for 3 months.

Behavioral aspects.

MMSE, Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR), video recordings.

The results show that the therapy has a positive impact on mental health I both groups; however, with smaller intensity among patients in the nursing homes due to their severity of dementia.

Olsen et al. [29]

80 subjects with mild-to-moderate dementia; mean age between 82 and 84 years.

1 intervention group with animal-assisted activity (AAA) with a dog and 1 passive control group; it lasted two times a week for 30 min for 3 months.

Physical health and quality of life (QoL).

Berg balance scale, Quality of Life in Late-stage Dementia, CDR.

The findings reveal that the AAA intervention had a significant effect (p = 0.03) on improving subjects’ balance in comparison with the control group. However, there was no effect on QoL.

Olsen et al. [30]

58 subjects with dementia; mean age between 83 and 84 years.

1 intervention group with animal-assisted activity (AAA) with a dog and 1 passive control group; it lasted two times a week for 30 min for 3 months.

Neuropsychiatric symptoms and QoL.

MMSE, Cornell Scale for Depression in Dementia, Brief Agitation Rating Scale, Quality of Life in Late-stage Dementia, CDR.

A significant effect on depression (p = 0.001) and QoL (p = 0.003) was detected for participants with severe dementia at follow-up after 3 months. For QoL, a significant effect of AAA was also found immediately after the intervention. No effects on agitation and cognitive functions were detected.

Pope et al. [18]

44 subjects with primary dementia; mean age: 79.8 years.

1 group had AAT intervention and 1 group human interactions (reading and conversation). It was held twice a week for 10 min for 2 weeks.

Social behavior.

Demographic and Pet History Questionnaire, Social Behaviors Checklist, Menorah Park Engagement Scale, Cohen-Mansfield Agitation Inventory.

The results show that both interventions had a positive impact on the enhancement of behavioral scores (p < .001).

Swall et al. [13]

5 subjects with AD, aged between 89 and 95 years, 4 women and 1 man.

AAT, 50 sessions.

Behavioral symptoms.

Video recordings, phenomenological hermeneutics.

The findings of this study indicate that the dog therapy had a positive effect on patients] behavior in the area of reduced agitation and enhancement of the feeling of empathy and affection.