Whether it’s through a wagging tail, sweet eyes or a calm demeanor, near 80 million dogs in the U.S. are family-owned and bring comfort and love to their caretakers. Many dogs in the U.S. hold even greater responsibility than just being the loving family pet, and go through special training as therapy dogs. They are making trips to hospitals to bring joy and peace to people undergoing treatments for cancer (and many other diseases and conditions).
There are successful canine therapy units in several major cancer centers, including Memorial Sloan Kettering (MKSCC), Dana Farber and Duke. And, according to MSKCC, research into animal-assisted therapy has shown that healthy and properly cared for dogs do not pose a medical risk for hospitalized patients. Trainers follow strict infection control guidelines and wash their hands often.
According to Duke, major depression is three to five times higher in oncology patients than the general population. Animal-assisted therapy has been shown to lower stress, anxiety and perceived pain and increase energy and build positive moods. It also has been shown to help communication between patients and health care providers and these animals often bring joy to the staff and family members of cancer patients as well.
This video will give you some insight into a canine therapy visit at Dana Farber.