Pet Therapy or Animal Assisted Therapy is becoming more popular for patients undergoing treatement. The most common type of therapy animal is a dog, but otehrs have used cats, farm animals, and even dolphins.
There are many benefits from using pet therapy such as:
- A decreased need for pain medications in those who suffer from chronic pain
- Lowered stress levels
- A calming effect
- Improved mood
- Decreased anxiety in hospitalized patients
- Decreased loneliness and social isolation, and a sense of emotional connection
- Pet therapy may even enhance the will to live
One study on radiation oncology patients found that those people who had dog visits rated their health as better than those who did not have dog visits as part of their therapy. Another study noted that pet therapy during chemotherapy improved depression as well as blood oxygenation (the amount of oxygen carried in the blood).
This "biological" stress reduction was noted with as little as five minutes of time spent with the dog
Along with the benefits, there is also risks in having pet therapy, especially when cell counts are low.
- Behavior problems: Animals, just like people, do not act perfectly all the time, even those who are carefully trained.
- Allergies: Some people have allergies to animals.
- People who are immunosuppressed: People who have bone marrow suppression, for example, due to chemotherapy, should talk to their oncologist before considering pet therapy.
- Disease transmission: There is a small risk that diseases carried by animals may be transmitted to humans. These are known as zoonotic diseases. With animals that are carefully screened, the risk of zoonotic diseases should be small.
- Fear of animals: Pet therapy is not a good idea for people who are frightened by animals such as dogs.
- Respect for the animal: As a final note it’s important to think of the creature on the other side of therapy. Animals that are used for therapy should not be exploited or placed in situations that could be uncomfortable or harmful.
**Make sure to always discuss with your provider here at Charleston Oncology before deciding to pursue pet therapy**
**Some information taken from verywellhelp.com and oncology nursing forum**