The Study of Human-Animal Interactions The CAIRC Scholarship Program Summary of the Past Researches
Summary of the Past Scholarship Research
From "Letter from CAIRC" July 2001
Research Theme: "The Trial of the Animal Assisted Therapy by the Dog to QOL (Quality of Life) Improvement in the Patient with Chronic Myocardial Infarction"

By Masahiko Motooka

Masahiko Motooka's specialty is cardiovascular endocrinology. In this research project, he has designed a trial program in which the approach is to adapt animal-assisted therapy (AAT) to auxiliary home therapy for patients who have suffered cardiac infarction, with an emphasis on creating a therapeutic program that is easy for patients to adopt. The research into AAT involved a comparison between dog owners and subjects without dogs. It was reported that the survival rate was higher one year after surgery for dog owners, and that dog ownership helps prevent and slow the progress of heart disease.

Unfortunately, few facilities for patients with chronic cardiac infarction accept the introduction of AAT, and in many cases it has not been successfully carried out. Given these circumstances, Mr. Motooka's research holds out a great deal of hope for patients with ischemic heart disease (IHD), as well as those suffering from high blood pressure.

The research included an animal-mediated test centered around walking activity. After 10 minutes of rest, subjects walked for 20 minutes, and then rested for another 15 minutes. Initially, the blood pressure, pulse and heart function of healthy subjects averaging 63 years in age were measured over three repetitions of this course of activity. Next, chronic cardiac infarction patients averaging 66 years in age were put through the course, and their blood pressure, pulse and heart function was also measured.

"These test results indicated that in both dog-mediated walking and non-dog-mediated walking, both healthy subjects and patients experienced significant suppression of the sympathetic nervous system that increased in correlation with repetition of the activity, as well as significant activation of the parasympathetic nervous system.

"Whereas walking without the mediation of dogs caused stress in the cardiac patients, dog-mediated walking helped them relax. Cardiac patients also experienced a lower frequency of irregular heart rhythms while walking with dogs than they did while at rest. From these results, we anticipate that the consistent practice of exercise therapy with pets will make it possible to improve the prognosis for chronic myocardial infarction patients. In the future, we would like to increase the reliability of this research by increasing the number of experimental cases."