Having a child with cancer is terrifying both for the parents and relatives but the child as well. Often they They are confused as to what is going on, they are scared of the sometimes painful treatments and are tired of being sick.
One of the best forms of treatment to make a sick child enjoy themselves for a little while is animal therapy, where a puppy or young dog cuddles with the child. It helps relax the child and take their mind off of their illness for a while at least. Most Doctors have recognized the value of animal therapy and been encouraging it’s use for many years.
The positive results have been largely anecdotal, but new research aims to demonstrate that the animal therapy programs have quantifiable positive results. The research is bring funded by a grant from veterinary health firm Zoetis, and matching funds from the Pfizer Foundation. It will be the first clinical trial which examines the role of animal assisted therapy on helping young cancer patients and their families.
The research will take a look at both the physical and mental impacts of animal therapy and see exactly how the animals are helping young patients, their families and carers. The Human Animal Bond Research Initative Foundaton will also look at the effect on the animals!
If the research demonstrates the clear benefit that has been shown anecdotally, it could lead to a far wider use of animal therapy in hospitals. The research will b monitoring 100 children who have been diagnosed with cancer, with 50 having access to animal therapy and 50 having none.
The study will run for a year and involve children between the ages of 3 and 12. Among the statistics gathered will be blood pressure, heart rate and psychological testing to see exactly what result the therapy has. As for the animals, their saliva will be tested for stress hormones after the visits to see how they are coping with the interaction.
Early results are encouraging with children who are clearly under stress having a lower heart rate when around the animals for a few minutes. If children have less anxiety and reduced stress it will surely have a positive impact on their treatment.
We should see the results of the study in about 15 months.