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Animal-assisted therapy and agitation and depression in nursing home residents with dementia: A matched case–control trial


Majić, Tomislav, Gutzmann, Hans, Heinz, Andreas, Lang, Undine E., Rapp, Michael A.


The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, Volume: 21, No.: 11, Pages.: 1052-1059

Year of Publication



Objectives: To investigate the efficacy of animal-assisted therapy (AAT) on symptoms of agitation/aggression and depression in nursing home residents with dementia in a randomized controlled trial. Previous studies have indicated that AAT has beneficial effects on neuropsychiatric symptoms in various psychiatric disorders but few studies have investigated the efficacy of AAT in patients suffering from dementia. Methods: Of 65 nursing home residents with dementia (mean [standard deviation] age: 81.8 [9.2] years; mean Mini-Mental State Examination score: 7.1 [0.7]), 27 matched pairs (N = 54) were randomly assigned to either treatment as usual or treatment as usual combined with AAT, administered over 10 weekly sessions. Blinded raters assessed cognitive impairment with the Mini-Mental State Examination, presence of agitation/aggression with the Cohen-Mansfield Agitation Inventory, and depression with the Dementia Mood Assessment Scale at baseline and during a period of 4 weeks after AAT intervention. Results: In the control group, symptoms of agitation/aggression and depression significantly increased over 10 weeks; in the intervention group, patients receiving combined treatment displayed constant frequency and severity of symptoms of agitation/aggression (F1,48 = 6.43; p < 0.05) and depression (F1,48 = 26.54; p < 0.001). Symptom amelioration did not occur in either group. Conclusions: AAT is a promising option for the treatment of agitation/aggression and depression in patients with dementia. Our results suggest that AAT may delay progression of neuropsychiatric symptoms in demented nursing home residents. Further research is needed to determine its long-time effects. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved). (journal abstract)

Bibtex Citation

@article{Maji__2013, doi = {10.1016/j.jagp.2013.03.004}, url = {}, year = 2013, month = {nov}, publisher = {Elsevier {BV}}, volume = {21}, number = {11}, pages = {1052--1059}, author = {Tomislav Maji{'{c}} and Hans Gutzmann and Andreas Heinz and Undine E. Lang and Michael A. Rapp}, title = {Animal-Assisted Therapy and Agitation and~Depression in Nursing Home Residents~with Dementia: A Matched Case{textendash}Control Trial}, journal = {The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry} }


aggression, aggressive behavior, agitation, animal assisted therapy, cognitive impairment, comorbidity, dementia, depression, interdisciplinary treatment approach, major depression, nursing home, nursing homes, treatment effectiveness evaluation

Countries of Study


Types of Study

Randomised Controlled Trial

Type of Outcomes

Behaviour, Cognition, Depression and Anxiety


Nursing Homes

Type of Interventions

Non-pharmacological Treatment

Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions

Animal / Pet Therapy