Should we prescribe dogs?

I was recently at the palliative registrar teaching day and the humdrum of a psychologist was 3rd wave washing through me, when there was the off-the-cuff comment about a Cocker Spaniel. Now the for-mentioned doggy was owned by Miss Ol’ Diddy and the moral was Woofy kept her active, psychologically well and basically alive with good QOL.

Has anyone looked at this? We after all prescribe the bizarrity of evidence based hand-held fans, why not our canine friends?

Well, with kids in bed, I made a coffee, sat at my desk, looked out to the full moon and howled at Athens.

And Yes! There is a surprising amount. As reported just this July 2017 it helps physical activity (In Norfolk anyway) (1) Albeit note the caveat of poor weather! Dogs make you happy, as every PHD in psychology will tell you (2), they support the elderly (3), act as companions (4), are catalysts for social interaction (5), make you have something to talk about (6), makes you more likable (7), and best of all make you have better health overall (8,9).

I love the hand-held fan, but there is more evidence here than most of palliative care practice alone! However, in the search for palliative research and dogs all I got was a comparative kinematic gait analysis of Beagle dogs (10).

Would prescribing dogs help QOL scores in patients fulfilling the Gold Standards Framework? Could they act as holistic symptom control bundles of fur? I propose at diagnosis of cancer, a RCT of Labrador or no, (maybe a 3rd arm of a hamster) and measure. Any ideas?

German Shepherd PRN



  1. Wu Y, Luben R, Jones A Dog ownership supports the maintenance of physical activity during poor weather in older English adults: cross-sectional results from the EPIC Norfolk cohort J Epidemiol Community Health  Published Online First: 24 July 2017. doi:10.1136/jech-2017-208987
  2. Friedmann, E. (1995). The role of pets in enhancing human well-being: Physiological effects. In I. Robinson (Ed.), The Waltham book of human-animal interactions: Benefits and responsibilities (pp. 33-53). Oxford, UK: Pergamon
  3. Garrity, T.F., Stallones, L., Marx, M.B., & Johnson, T.P. (1989). Pet ownership and attachment as supportive factors in the health of the elderly. Anthrozoos, 3, 35-44
  4. Hart, L.A. (1995). Dogs as human companions: A review of the relationship . In J. A. Serpell (Ed.), The domestic dog: Its evolution, behavior and interactions with people (pp. 162-178). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University press.
  5. McNicholas, J., & Collis, G.M. (2000). Dogs as catalysts for social interactions: Robustness of the effect. British Journal of Psychology, 91, 61-70.
  6. Rogers, J., Hart, L.A., & Boltz, R.P. (1993). The role of pet dogs in casual conversations of elderly adults. Journal of Social Psychology, 133, 265-278.
  7. Rossbach, K.A., & Wilson, J.P. (1992). Does a dog’s presence make a person appear more likeable? Anthrozoos, 5, 40-51.
  8. Headey, B. (1998, November). Do pet owners enjoy better health? Results from the German Soci-Economic Panel. Paper presented at the Animals, Community Health and Public Policy Symposium, Sydney.
  9. Wells, D.L. (2007). Domestic dogs and human health: An overview. British Journal of Health Psychology, 12, 145-156.
  10. Comparative kinematic gait analysis in young and old Beagle dogs. Author(s) Lorke M; Willen M; Lucas K; Beyerbach M; Wefstaedt P; Murua Escobar H; Nolte Source Journal of veterinary science;


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