If you have a pet, you know exactly how a wagging tail, meditative purr or soft belly begging for a scratch can make you feel instantly better on even your worst days. Now the medical community is also recognizing—and putting some scientific proof
behind—pets’ unique ability to relax and even uplift patients, particularly those who are undergoing cancer treatment.
According to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, pets can relax you, reduce your feelings of isolation and distract you from the pain. Having an animal that needs you can also give you the motivation to recover.
In a 2015 study to determine the effect of animal-assisted visits on cancer patients’ quality of life, therapy dogs visited 37 patients at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City before their chemotherapy and radiation treatments. The daily visits, which lasted 15 to 20 minutes, continued for the duration of the patients’ therapy. Despite the fact that the patients’ physical and functional health declined during this period, researchers reported a significant improvement in their emotional and social well-being. In other words, pets can help ease the heavy burden of cancer and the arduous treatment that goes along with it.
“There is mounting evidence in human and veterinary medicine that the emotional bond between people and companion animals can have a positive impact on emotional and physical health,” says Dr. Michael McFarland, director of Companion Animal Veterinary Operations at Zoetis. “These new results help advance our understanding of the value of animal-assisted therapy in cancer treatment and point to the ways the oncology and animal health communities can work together in supporting cancer patients to achieve the best possible outcome.”
Walking, feeding and playing with a pet can also restore some sense of normalcy in your life when everything else is so out of kilter. And when you have to depend on others for so many things, it may just feel good to have something—whether it’s a dog or a cat, a hamster or a fish—relying on you for a change.
Being needed can be empowering and healing!
About Our Author
Terri L. Jones
Terri L. Jones Marketing writer Terri L. Jones contributes regularly to magazines and blogs in Richmond, VA. An animal lover with two puppies, Archie and Daisy, and a cat, Sammy, Terri is on the board of VET Fund and volunteers for another nonprofit, FETCH-a-Cure. Read her work at www.wordplaycreative.com