Earlier this year, a study by a Brazilian research team on hospitalized children undergoing treatment for various forms of cancer indicated that animal-assisted therapy has tremendous potential to aid the anxiety and suffering of these patients. This intervention was even helpful for the attending caregivers. Twenty-four children were exposed in various weekly hospital-based activities to two well-trained therapy dogs. The results were very encouraging and speak to the power of the human-animal bond to promote comfort and healing. The children displayed physical and psychological changes for the better. Natural chemicals in the body that promote a fight or flight response in the presence of stressful situations were reduced, and helpful, relaxation chemicals were released. This contributed to the children experiencing their hospital stay very differently than without the healing presence of the animals. They even seemed to experience less pain, which must surely be a very great relief to the children and their caregivers. An excerpt from the scientific paper is included below.
“Consistent with the findings of previous studies, our results indicated improvement in pain and psychological parameters (irritation, stress, anxiety, mental confusion, and tension) of the children undergoing outpatient oncological treatment as perceived by the caregivers and children, with significant effect sizes. The improvement observed after participation in three AAT sessions may be directly related to the benefits of the human-animal relationship, which favours psychological and endocrine changes in the human body. Previous studies have shown that visual communication and touching animals can trigger the release of various substances in the human body, including oxytocin, endorphins, and serotonin, and reduce the baseline cortisol level… These hormones and cytokines in combination may contribute to a reduction of pain, anxiety, and stress and increase the sensation of pleasure and relaxation by children undergoing cancer treatment.”
The paper itself is available to anyone through an open-access website. The citation to help retrieve the entire work is…
It may be that therapy animals are better than clowns for children frightened and suffering a serious disease and confined to a hospital setting.
More information about the power of animals to heal can be found in Zoodulcis: Our Fascination with Animals. Also, if you are an animal lover, why not order pet food from any link to Amazon on this site. One hundred percent of the commission from your purchase goes to an animal rescue non-profit organization.