Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



School of Medicine


Community Practice

Committee Chair

Irene Tessaro.


The purpose of this study was to demonstrate a reduction in depressive symptoms in nursing home residents by using a pet therapy intervention to increase levels of social support and social interaction within the nursing home facility.;The target population in this study consisted of two nursing home facilities in West Virginia. Approximately 21 subjects participated in the study. An intervention using pet therapy was conducted in the intervention facility in which certified therapy animals "visited" the residents once a week for four weeks. The control group received a delayed intervention of gospel singing once a week for four weeks after posttest.;Data collection involved two techniques: a personal interview assessing the prevalence of depressive symptoms using the CES-D and the extent of the resident's social support, and natural observation during the pet therapy visits.;Analytical findings using a paired samples t-test show a significant increase in depressive symptoms in the intervention group at posttest and a significant decrease in depressive symptoms in the control group at posttest. Findings using a one way ANOVA show no significant difference in the rate that intervention subjects were seeking social support or social interaction between pretest and posttest. Observational findings show a consistent increase in positive reactions to the visits with the pets and interaction with the owners during the intervention period.;Contradictory findings from the quantitative and qualitative components of this study suggest further research could be used to determine whether pet therapy is, in fact, effective in decreasing depressive symptoms.