The effect of pet ownership/attachment on the stress level of multiple sclerosis patients
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Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is the most common demyelinating disease affecting the central nervous system. Over 80% of MS patients are in the relapsing remitting stage. Symptoms range from fever, fatigue, emotional distress, tingling, numbness, optic neuritis, spasticity, muscle weakness, impaired coordination, to other abnormal neurological problems. Expression of symptoms is known as a relapse or exacerbation. The cause of relapses is unknown, but multiple factors seem to play a significant role. Possible factors that may influence MS onset and relapse consist of a genetic association, viruses, disruption of the blood-brain barrier, and stress. Stress has shown to have negative implications and may stimulate relapses. Thus, this study examined a possible stress intervention that most people already had available to them, companion animals. Companion animals have been shown to lower blood pressure, decrease heart rate, provide social support, and reduce stress. The main hypothesis was to evaluate whether or not pet ownership and/or attachment influenced the perceived stress level and number of negative life events experienced by MS patients in the relapsing remitting stage. Participants were given a questionnaire that consisted of 7 surveys. The questionnaire accessed quality of life, disease severity, number of negative life events, perceived stress level, level of depression, social support, and pet ownership and attachment level. Our sample population consisted of MS patients seen at the University of Texas Southwestern Neurology clinic from February 23rd to May 21st, 2004. One hundred and forty seven relapsing remitting MS patients were included in the study. Multiple linear regression was used to compare the relationship of stress and number of negative life events to pet ownership and attachment. Results revealed that pet ownership and attachment levels did not affect the stress level and number of negative life events of MS patients. No confounders were identified. Interaction terms with disease severity as the dependent variable, pet ownership and perceived stress level or negative life events as the independent variables were not significant. The type of pet owned did not influence the attachment level of the MS patient. In conclusion, the results of this study did not support the hypothesis.
Loven, Ashley Marie (2004). The effect of pet ownership/attachment on the stress level of multiple sclerosis patients. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Texas A&M University. Available electronically from