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Vegetative symptoms and behaviour of the therapy-accompanying dog of a chronically suicidal patient
  1. Jan Sarlon1,
  2. Angelica Staniloiu1,2,
  3. Anette Schöntges1,
  4. Andreas Kordon1,3
  1. 1Psychiatry, Oberbergklinik Schwarzwald, Hornberg, Germany
  2. 2Physiological Psychology Department, University of Bielefeld, Bielefeld, Germany
  3. 3Psychiatry, Universitatsklinikum Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany
  1. Correspondence to Dr Jan Sarlon, jan.sarlon{at}


We herein present a 51-year-old single female inpatient with treatment-resistant recurrent depressive disorder. Her most recent depressive episode has been severe and followed a chronic course, lasting for longer than 2 years. During the exacerbation of the patient’s suicidal thoughts and plans, we repeatedly and independently observed vegetative and behavioural changes of the therapy-accompanying dog of the patient. Our findings suggest a role for dog-assisted therapy for augmenting treatment as well as for enhancing and developing novel adjunctive strategies for risk assessment in patients with chronic depression and suicidality. Possible social–biological mechanisms and underpinnings are discussed, by drawing on the available literature and comparative psychology. Collaboration with animal behaviourists and animal welfare scientists, in order to improve behavioural and physiological data interpretation and humaneness of dog-assisted therapy, is emphasised as a crucial component of future research.

  • depressive disorder
  • psychotherapy
  • suicide (psychiatry)
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  • Contributors JS: designed the paper and wrote the main literature, supervised the therapy. AS: collected data and implemented important information from the literature. ASc: collected data and conducted the therapy. AK: collected data, initiated and supervised the therapy. All members contributed substantial to writing of the paper and revised the paper.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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