Background: The effects of animal assisted therapy on patients with dementia were investigated through the use of mental state batteries.
Methods: The subjects were eight patients admitted in a local nursing home. Their mean age was 84.8 years ±7.0; four were dementia of Alzheimer's type patients, and the others were vascular dementia patients. Mental state tests included the apathy scale, the irritability scale, the depression scale, the activities of daily living and mini-mental state examination. Dog therapy with two dogs from the Japanese Rescue Association took place for 1 h over four consecutive days.
Results: The patients could communicate with and observe the dogs, and the dogs could interact with the humans. The results indicated no significant difference in the irritability scale, the depression scale, activity of daily living and mini-mental state examination. However, most patients had a good impression of dog therapy, and all improved their apathetic state.
Conclusions: These results might imply that animal assisted therapy has the possibility to influence the mental state of patients with dementia.