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How Pets Can Help Breast Cancer Patients

By Colleen Williams
published: October 5, 2018 - updated: August 24, 2022 • 2 min. read
breast cancer patient and dog

Our friends at Human-Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) have been studying the positive impact of companion animals on cancer patients. Much like their research on childhood cancer, they have concluded that companion animal interaction has been shown to reduce the stress associated with cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Did you know…

Studies have demonstrated that animal-assisted therapy (AAT) plays a beneficial role in:

  • Improving rest, nourishment, exercise, socialization, motivation and self-esteem, along with reducing anxiety and helping to overcome problems for pediatric cancer patients
  • Alleviating psychological distress in children and their parents, facilitating their coping mechanisms and the therapeutic process, and promoting their well-being throughout hospitalization

In one study, AAT during counseling for breast cancer was successful in:

  • Increasing calm and feelings of anticipation toward participation in counseling
  • Increasing disclosure of information and engagement with therapy
  • Alleviating feelings of anxiety and distress
  • Increasing communication with health professionals
  • Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy that had a weekly hour-long session of therapy with a dog rated their symptoms of depression and anxiety half as severe as those who did not.

All research above provided by HABRI; for more information on their cancer research, please see their page on the subject.

Rover has also reported (5 Ways Service Dogs Help People with Cancer) that the healing qualities of dogs include reducing stress, decreasing feelings of loneliness, and releasing endorphins from a single touch. And don’t discount the kitties! One of our Rescue Race nonprofit qualifiers, The Cat’s Meow, told a story about Nadine who adopted two cats shortly before she was diagnosed with breast cancer. “They are happy and healthy and bring me non-stop joy. Soon after I adopted them, I was diagnosed with breast cancer,” says Nadine. “They stayed by my side the whole time with loads of snuggles and kitty kisses. And now I am happy to say I am cancer-free!”

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer and you’re looking for resources, please see’s recommendations on safe pet keeping because there are some infections you may be more susceptible to during treatments. You can also search for organizations that provide therapy dogs at hospitals or medical centers through Therapy Dogs International (TDI).

Healthy Paws supports the research provided by HABRI, as well as a variety of other organizations that help homeless animals and focus on companion pet welfare. Check out How We Give Back and join our pack by getting a free quote.

colleen williams
By Colleen Williams

Over the past decade, Colleen has written about health, wellness, beauty, and even pets for The New York Times, The Cut, Refinery29, xoVain, Healthy Paws Pet Insurance, and Seattle Met Magazine, as well as many beauty brands. She has a BFA in Art History from the University of New Mexico and an AAS in Fashion Design from Parsons School of Design in New York.

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