A study to be presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference Exhibition in Washington, DC is among the first batch of quantitative data to validate claims that therapy dogs can be helpful to children with cancer.
The study collected data on blood pressure, pulse rates and anxiety levels of children before and after a weekly visit from a therapy dog.
Preliminary findings show that blood pressure readings in the group receiving visits from therapy dogs remains more stable across the sessions than in the control group. Additionally, canine companionship appears to improve anxiety levels among patients.
“These findings suggest that the dog may have a calming effect on the patient,” said Dr. Amy McCullough, Ph.D., national director of humane research and therapy for the American Humane Association.
Many hospitals have therapy dogs to visit with patients, and until now anecdotal evidence was the only information demonstrating that these programs positively impact children undergoing cancer treatment.
“This study will be a milestone in understanding of the benefits of the vital bond shared between people and animals,” Dr. McCullough said.