Puppy Love:Dogs can Help Children with Cancer

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
May 12, 2014

Studies have found the scientific evidence that a pet can do more than just make you happy--it can improve your health. Now, a study has linked childhood cancers with a dog. A dog can make a kid with cancer feel better, suggests the American Humane Association.

puppy loveAccording to the doctors, they’ve known about the value of therapy pets in hospitals for years. The American Humane Association along with veterinary health firm Zoetis and Pfizer Foundation is launching animal-assisted therapy, or AAT, on young cancer patients and their families.

Through a grant from the Human Animal Bond Research Imitative Foundation, they will also study the effects of treatment on the dogs. If proved successful, it could pave the way for far wider use of some 50,000 registered therapy dogs in children’s hospitals nationwide.

Robin Ganzert, president and chief executive of AHA, who is scheduled to brief Congress on the “Canines and Childhood Cancer Study”, said that it is really this crucial exploration of the child-animal bond and how that is a crucial path to healing. Amy McCullough, AHA’s national director of humane research and therapy, said that we know that the children like to see the dogs, but the folks in risk management want some clinical data. For this, the goal is to gather the first-ever clinical details about the physical and psychological effects of animal therapy on the child patients, their families and caregivers.

The researchers have designed a randomized, controlled trial that will follow 100 children who are newly diagnosed with cancer, including 50 who receive targeted visits from therapy dogs, and 50 who will receive standard treatment. This is follow up of a small pilot study of six kids and six pets that was conducted last year.

Five children’s hospitals have agreed to conduct the year-long study of kids ages 3 to 12 who get regular chemotherapy in outpatient clinics. The study will track patient’s blood pressure, heart rate and psychological responses in the kids, their families and the caregivers. Besides, it will test the effect on the dogs, measuring the level of the stress hormone cortisol in the animals’ saliva before and after visits.

According to those involved in the study, the therapy dogs are not just ordinary pets. They have to pass rigorous tests for obedience and they have to be scrupulously clean and free of disease. But the dogs also have to have an extra quality.


(Source: NBC News)


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