Background: Anhedonia, a component of the negative symptom dimension and a core phenomenon in schizophrenia, is associated with poor social functioning and is resistant to treatment. We tested the hypothesis that animal-assisted therapy (AAT) may improve anhedonia. Objective: To compare the effect of psychosocial treatment sessions in which a dog was an active participant (AAT) with comparable sessions without a dog, using a controlled protocol. Method: The hedonic tone of 10 chronic schizophrenia patients who participated in 10 weekly interactive sessions of AAT was compared to a control group treated without animal assistance. The hedonic tone was measured with the Snaith-Hamilton Pleasure Scale. Subjective quality of life variables and clinical symptoms were also assessed. Results: The AAT group showed a significant improvement in the hedonic tone compared to controls. They also showed an improvement in the use of leisure time and a trend towards improvement in motivation. Conclusion: AAT may contribute to the psychosocial rehabilitation and quality of life of chronic schizophrenia patients.
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