Pets make people happy, and a happy heart can make all the difference when it comes to illness. That is why pet therapy, or animal-assisted therapy (AAT), can be beneficial to aging cancer patients.
AAT is a complimentary, medically recognized service that involves interactions between patients and a trained animal, and its trainer or handler, to promote emotional and physical healing. Dogs and cats are the most common animals used for AAT, but occasionally, trained miniature horses, dolphins and miniature pigs are also used.
The many benefits of pet therapy during cancer treatment or recovery for aging patients include:
- Provides Support. It is normal for cancer patients to feel stress, anxiety, depression and an overwhelming amount of emotions well after a cancer prognosis. Sometimes man’s best friend, or other ATT trained animals, is just the right remedy. The comfort that an animal companion can provide may help reduce some of the emotional distress felt after a cancer diagnosis. Trained animals can provide patients with unconditional love and support. The connection and bond that can be made between a patient and an animal may improve the emotional mindset of the patient, which is important for emotional healing.
- Improves Physical Strength. The presence of trained therapeutic animals can actually stimulate the physical healing process in cancer patients by reducing stress levels. When the body is less focused on compensating for high stress levels, it can focus on physical recovery. The time spent between an AAT animal and a cancer patient can even reduce heart rate, lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Animals can promote exercise, which is important for rebuilding and maintaining physical strength, such as walking a dog.
- Reduces Pain. Although various cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy and tumor removal surgery help treat cancer patients, they also cause pain. Many studies have found that pet therapy typically helps, and at least temporarily provides a distraction from pain, which, in turn, increases quality of life and the perceived ability to recover faster.
There is no doubt that animals can provide a cancer patient with unconditional love and support, which just may help in their recovery. Although pet therapy is a medically recognized type of treatment and may be beneficial for aging cancer patients, it should not be used as a replacement for conventional medicine.
Author bio: Kaitlyn Teabo is a writer for The Mesothelioma Center. She combines her interests in writing, cancer research and emerging scientific technology to educate the mesothelioma community about asbestos and its related diseases.
Animal-Assisted Therapy. Retrieved from www.americanhumane.org/interaction/programs/animal-assisted-therapy/