Animal-assisted therapy reduced pain medication needs for patients recovering from total joint replacement surgery, a new study shows.

“The animal-human connection is powerful in reducing stress and in generating a sense of well-being,” lead author Julia Havey, MSN, RN, CCM, told Loyola Medicine. “This study further demonstrates the positive influence animals can have on human recovery.”

The researchers compared the use of oral pain medications between one group of patients that received care with an AAT program and another without. All patients were recovering from total joint replacement surgery and were grouped together based on age, ethnicity, gender, length of stay and type of total joint replacement.

The ATT group met with specially trained dogs for an average of five to 15 minutes every day.

Results showed that the AAT group needed “significantly less” pain medication, reducing their intake by about 28%. The AAT group used about 15 mg while the comparison group used about 21 mg.

The researchers were from Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and Loyola University Health System.

Findings were published online in the September issue of Anthrozoos.