Major Study Indicates That Therapy Dogs Provide Significant Benefits to Families of Children Undergoing Treatment for Cancer

WASHINGTON, Dec. 22, 2017 – Dogs have long been called Mankind’s best friend, but a major new scientific study now indicates that a dog may also be a family’s best friend in times of their greatest need.

Following seven years of pioneering research, American Humane, the country’s first national humane organization, revealed the results of its long-awaited “Canines and Childhood Cancer Study,” the first and largest randomized, controlled clinical trial to rigorously measure the effects of animal-assisted therapy (AAT) in the field of pediatric oncology. The results, published today in the Journal of Pediatric Oncology Nursing, furnish evidence that regular visits from a therapy dog can provide significant psychosocial benefits to families of children undergoing treatment for cancer.

The data indicates positive effects on parents, including improved communication within families as well as between parents and medical staff, which can lead to better medical care, and reductions in their levels of stress, specifically as it relates to their emotional functioning.

“This study advances our understanding of the benefits of the vital bond shared between people and animals,” said principal investigator and American Humane National Director of Humane Research Dr. Amy McCullough. “We believe the findings may further increase access to therapy animals in hospital environments, enhance therapy dog training and practice, and improve well-being outcomes for families facing the challenges of childhood cancer.”

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