Therapy Dogs in the Dialysis Clinic: A Qualitative Study Examining Hemodialysis Patients’ Attitudes Toward an Animal-Assisted Intervention

Meredith Stensland, Adrian Elorriaga, Martha Block, Geoff Block, Donald McGeary, Jacie Flaman, Selena Lugosi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Hemodialysis (HD) is a burdensome clinical process that demands frequent and long visits to the clinic every week indefinitely, yet strict adherence to its regimen is paramount to overall health and wellbeing. Effective approaches are needed to not only reduce patients’ rates of missed treatments but also ease the overall burden and stress associated with long-term HD use. The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore HD patients’ attitudes toward a clinic-based animal-assisted intervention (AAI) to build an understanding of its perceived fit within this novel setting, as well as how this intervention could improve their treatment adherence. Patients from four outpatient clinics engaged in one-on-one, in-depth semi-structured interviews that were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Within a framework of iterative thematic analysis, the Matrix Method was utilized in combination with line-by-line coding to thematically analyze data. A total of 20 patients (age M = 57, SD = 7.93) participated. Results are reflected in four main themes: (1) The dread and suffering of endless treatment; (2) Yearning for the presence of therapy dogs at the clinic; (3) Therapy dogs can aid in the internal battle of treatment adherence; (4) The logistics of incorporating therapy dogs into HD care routine. Participants’ narratives collectively illustrate the perceived value of AAI in the HD clinic setting. This study improves not only our understanding of how HD patients perceive clinic-based therapy-dog visits but also offers helpful insights for implementing this intervention in future research. Incorporating therapy dogs into HD patients’ healthcare routine may offer an innovative approach to improving patient outcomes, and the results of this study are a compelling prompt to empirically investigate the role of AAI in HD treatment adherence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
StateAccepted/In press - 2024


  • Animal-assisted intervention
  • hemodialysis
  • human–animal interaction
  • qualitative
  • treatment adherence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Anthropology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • veterinary (miscalleneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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