For decades there have been incredible stories about the power of animals to help heal sick children, but with little concrete evidence.
But a new study, Canines and Childhood Cancer, run by the American Humane Association is now proving it once and for all. The trial is taking place across five hospitals in the US.
The study is proving that animal-assisted therapy is an effective treatment for children with cancer. Spending time with therapy dogs gives these sick children a better quality of life and it makes everyone involved happier – the children with cancer, their families, and the therapy dogs!
Many children going through cancer therapy get very bored whilst receiving treatment in the hospital and this can lead to depression. But by having a canine companion, they have someone to cuddle and play with which lifts their spirits and brings them comfort.
A young boy called Adrien, who was diagnosed with leukaemia a few years ago, talks about his experience with his therapy dog, Chako:
For once in the hospital, I didn’t feel like I was at the hospital, I just felt like I was at home playing with a dog.
What’s more, these dogs help distract child patients from the pain and nausea that often accompanies chemotherapy.
The benefits of therapy dog treatment include decreased stress, loneliness and depression, and improved social skills as well as physical exercise.
If the trial proves to be a success, it could end up in funding for 50,000 registered therapy dogs in children’s hospitals nationwide.