Families, caregivers, charities and research groups across the United States observe September as Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. According to the American Childhood Cancer Organization:
- 15,780 children under the age of 21 are diagnosed with cancer every year
- Every 3 minutes, somewhere in the world a family hears the devastating words that their child has been diagnosed with cancer
- Approximately 1 in 285 children in the U.S. will be diagnosed with cancer before their 20th birthday
It’s a diagnosis that can irrevocably impact families, and September’s awareness campaign can bring about support for those – or their loved ones – who are affected by the disease. In honor of kids with cancer and our own commitment to companion animals helping humans in times of strife, we wanted to shine a light on a new study released by the Human-Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI). Following seven years of research, American Humane revealed the results of its long-awaited “Canines and Childhood Cancer Study,” the first and largest randomized, controlled clinical trial to measure the effects of animal-assisted therapy (AAT) in the field of pediatric oncology.
The results, published in the Journal of Pediatric Oncology Nursing, show that regular visits from a therapy dog can provide significant benefits to families of children undergoing treatment for cancer. The preliminary data indicated the following positive effects:
- Worry and anxiety among patients who had regular visits from therapy dogs was alleviated, and some reports said that the dogs had a calming effect. In fact, blood pressure readings were reviewed as stable.
- Parents in the treatment group reported that their children had significant improvements in school functioning.
- Data showed improved communication within families as well as between parents and medical staff, which can lead to better medical care, as well as reduction in their stress response.
For more information on the cancer research HABRI has been implementing, please see their page on the subject.
Additionally, pets of all shapes and sizes have brought much joy to kids and their families. Rover reports (5 Ways Service Dogs Help People with Cancer) that the healing qualities of dogs are immeasurable, citing:
- Relaxation. Not only is spending time with a furry friend soothing, it can also be an oasis in otherwise hectic, sometimes painful, days.
- Safety. Kids and adults alike find themselves confiding in therapy dogs, or even just bask in a moment of safe silence.
- Tactile sensation. Petting an animal releases endorphins, which has been clinically proven to reduce stress and improves mood.
- Distraction. By focusing on a dog, patients can forget about their ordeal.
- Socialization. By alleviating feelings of loneliness, dogs can help patients feel supported and even encourage conversation with doctors. Some patients report that just having a pup beside gives them courage to speak up.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer, and you’re looking for resources, please see Cancer.org for recommendations on safe pet keeping. Next, search local organizations that can provide therapy dogs at hospitals or medical centers through Therapy Dogs International (TDI).
Healthy Paws supports all the good work HABRI and therapy dogs do. Follow us on How We Give Back to find out more about our nonprofit that supports a variety of organizations. Just by getting a free quote, we will donate funds to help homeless animals.