Veterinary Medicine CMU Partners with Psychologists from the Faculty of Humanities to Provide Dog-Assisted Therapy

3 April 2024

Faculty of Veterinary Medicine

        The CMU Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, the Department of Psychology, and the Faculty of Humanities has conducted a study entitled ‘The Preliminary Study of the Effect of Dog-Assisted Therapy on Stress Relief in University Students,’ which is funded by the CMU High Impact SE network.

        Professor Dr. Korakot Nganvongpanit, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM), and head of the research project, explained that the study was conducted at the Main Library during ‘Reading Week,’ which is known to be a highly stressful period for students as they prepare for upcoming examinations. The study examined the physical, as well as psychological changes in a group of 122 students throughout their first semester of the 2023 academic year. Of the participants, 30 were male and 92 were female. In terms of their field of study, 55 students were enrolled in the health science and the science and technology departments, while 67 students were studying humanities or social sciences. Additionally, the participants were distributed across different study years, with 26 being first-year students, 24 in their second year, 45 in their third year, 12 in their fourth year, and 15 in their fifth year or beyond. The following data was collected before and after the intervention began: questionnaire data, stress levels, blood pressure, heart rate, and cortisol levels measured in saliva. It was found that all parametric values were significantly decreased (p < 0.05) after just one 15-minute play session with dogs, compared to if they hadn’t any interaction with dogs. This has led to the conclusion that interactions with dogs, or dog-assisted therapy, has a stress relief effect which can prove as a helpful and positive tool to support students’ overall mental health and prevent potential mental health problems. It begs to ask the overall effect that animals, or in this case pets, can have on us.

         Assistant Professor Dr. Saengduean Yotanyamaneewong, a member of the research team from the Department of Psychology, added that ‘Humans are social animals that constantly engage in social interactions, and positive interactions will have positive effects on thoughts and emotions. Therefore, interactions with dog-assisted therapy, such as talking, touching, holding or hugging therapy dogs, which have been trained to be peaceful and have positive responses with humans, will transmit the tranquility and help induce emotional co-regulation, resulting in students feeling more calm, relaxed and relieved from stress in their daily lives.’
This project serves as a key starting point of mental health support services for CMU students and staff. While dog-assisted therapy does not replace conventional mental health care, the presence of trained animals can potentially motivate individuals who need further support to have the awareness and the confidence to seek professional psychological support. The university also has plans to expand this service to the wider community in the future.