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Open AccessArticle

Perceptions on Health Benefits of Guide Dog Ownership in an Austrian Population of Blind People with and without a Guide Dog

1
Comparative Medicine, The Interuniversity Messerli Research Institute, University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna, Medical University Vienna, University of Vienna, Vienna 1210, Austria
2
Department of Clinical Psychology, Faculty of Psychology, Sigmund Freud University Vienna, Vienna 1020, Austria
3
Coordination Center for Assistance Dogs, The Interuniversity Messerli Research Institute, University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna, Medical University Vienna, University of Vienna, Vienna 1210, Austria
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2019, 9(7), 428; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9070428
Received: 31 May 2019 / Revised: 27 June 2019 / Accepted: 2 July 2019 / Published: 7 July 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Animal Assisted Therapies and Interventions 2019)
An emerging body of science has linked dog ownership with a better quality of life in their owners. However, there is limited information on the potential health benefits of guide dog ownership in blind people. This study sought to shed light on quality of life, annual medical costs, and attitudes towards the human–guide dog relationship in an Austrian population of 36 blind people with and without a guide dog. No significant differences in quality of life by means of a standardized questionnaire were found. Still, guide dog owners were more likely to regard a guide dog as a family member and to believe that guide dogs can increase their independency and, furthermore, have a positive effect on their health. Lower annual medical costs in guide dogs’ owners were reported on a non-significant level, as only few people provided the required information. These findings indicate that the attitude towards guide dog ownership varies between blind people with and without a guide dog. Further research into this topic is warranted.
Blindness has previously been associated with impaired quality of life (QOL). Guide dogs may not only support blind people in their independency, but also facilitate social relationships and overall health. This study sought to investigate whether blind people from Austria with a guide dog, when compared with blind people without a guide dog, differ in their QOL, annual medical costs, and attitudes towards the human–guide dog relationship. Participants (n = 36) filled out an online accessible questionnaire that consisted of the World Health Organization (WHO)QOL-BREF and additional self-designed questions. Guide dog ownership was not associated with a better QOL. However, yearly medical cost expenditures were descriptively lower in guide dog owners, who were also more likely to believe that guide dogs can increase their independency and exert positive effects on health. Moreover, guide dog owners more likely considered a guide dog as a family member than non-guide dog owners. Although within the framework of this study, owning a guide dog was not significantly associated with increased QOL, some differences between the groups regarding health beliefs, attitude towards the dog, and relationship with the dog were identified. Accounting for the emerging prevalence of visual impairment, further research into this topic is warranted. View Full-Text
Keywords: guide dog; dog ownership; quality of life; health; attitude; blind people guide dog; dog ownership; quality of life; health; attitude; blind people
MDPI and ACS Style

Glenk, L.M.; Přibylová, L.; Stetina, B.U.; Demirel, S.; Weissenbacher, K. Perceptions on Health Benefits of Guide Dog Ownership in an Austrian Population of Blind People with and without a Guide Dog. Animals 2019, 9, 428.

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