Therapy dogs benefit patients undergoing chemo

The study reveals that a person’s emotional well-being can even improve when a dog is present — even while their physical well-being is in decline. (Photo Credit: Shutterstock)

If you live with a dog, we’re sure you understand the emotional benefits they provide. Not only are they loyal companions, but a clinical study published in the Journal of Community and Supportive Oncology reveals therapy dogs may improve the emotional well-being of cancer patients.

Patients in the study, conducted by researchers at Mount Sinai Beth Israel, experienced increases in emotional well-being and quality of life when they received visits from a certified therapy dog during the course of their chemotherapy treatments.

What stood out in the findings was even during health declines, positive emotions rose when patients came into contact with the therapy dogs. The research was supported by The Good Dog Foundation, the leading provider of professionally trained, fully certified, and supervised volunteer therapy dog teams; Zoetis, a leading global animal health company; and the Pfizer Foundation.

“This study is the first such definitive study in cancer, and it highlights the merits of animal-assisted visits using the same scientific standards as we hold for the cancer treatment itself,” Stewart B. Fleishman, MD, principal investigator and Founding Director of Cancer Supportive Services at Mount Sinai Beth Israel tells Michael Izzo of Daily Record. “Having an animal-assisted visit significantly improved their quality of life and humanized a high-tech treatment. Patients said they would have stopped their treatments before completion, except for the presence of the certified Good Dog Foundation therapy dog and volunteer handler.”

J. Michael McFarland, DVM, DABVP, Zoetis group director of Companion Animal Veterinary Operations, agrees. “There is mounting evidence in human and veterinary medicine that the emotional bond between people and companion animals can have a positive impact of emotional and physical health.”

Not surprised by the results, Rachel McPherson, executive director and founder of The Good Dog Foundation, adds that her organization has seen the benefits therapy dogs have on human emotions, and was thrilled this is now documented by a peer-reviewed study.

Read the full findings of the study.

Sources: Daily Record, Journal of Community and Supportive Oncology, The Good Dog Foundation