Perceptions of companion dog benefits on well-being of US military veterans with HIV/AIDS

Kimberly Swart Kruger, Stephen L. Stern, Gregory Anstead, Erin P. Finley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Objectives: Patients with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) frequently experience psychosocial complications in addition to physical illness. Conflicting data on the value of companion dog ownership in minimizing psychosocial distress suggest the need for more research in this field. This study helps to clarify and expand upon previous research on perceived well-being among patients with HIV/AIDS, specifically as it relates to how owning dogs influences the well-being of US military veterans living with HIV/AIDS. Methods: Twenty-nine male veterans with a mean age of 52 years who reported having owned a dog since being diagnosed as having HIV/AIDS completed semistructured interviews regarding pet ownership and perceived well-being. Participants also completed a brief survey describing their pets and rating scales that assessed symptoms of depression (nine-question Patient Health Questionnaire-9) and the extent of attachment to their pets (Lexington Attachment to Pets Scale). Descriptive statistics were completed and interview responses were transcribed and examined qualitatively for key themes. Results: The mean Patient Health Questionnaire-9 score of 8.9 (median score of 6) was consistent with mild depressive symptoms, and the mean Lexington Attachment to Pets Scale score was 83.2, indicative of high attachment to one's dog. Veterans reported walking their dogs a mean of 49 minutes/day. Qualitative analysis of the interviews showed that having HIV/AIDS interfered with well-being in three main ways (emotional burden, physical condition, and social isolation). Owning dogs enhanced perceived well-being in four ways (physical activity, companionship, responsibility, and stress reduction). Conclusions: Twenty-eight of the 29 participants (97%) reported that owning dogs was a positive experience. Overall, this study suggests that veterans with HIV/AIDS who own companion dogs believe that it improves their well-being.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)188-193
Number of pages6
JournalSouthern medical journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2014


  • Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome
  • Companion dogs
  • Human immunodeficiency virus
  • Veterans
  • Well-being

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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