A groundbreaking canine and childhood cancer study coordinated by the American Humane Association and joined by Zoetis, a global animal health company, is investigating the benefits of therapy dogs on children undergoing cancer treatment.
Annually around 13,000 children are diagnosed with cancer between the ages of birth and 19 years of age. Young cancer patients find comfort with dogs while in the hospital setting and undergoing chemotherapy.
“Animal-assisted therapy may have the potential to assist families in coping with the child’s cancer experience.”, states Mary Jo Gilmer, Ph.D., MBA, R.N, a palliative care expert at Vanderbilt University and recipient of a grant coordinated by the American Humane Association’s Canines and Childhood Cancer research project. The research project’s goal is to investigate whether therapy dogs could have a positive effect on children undergoing chemotherapy.
Five children’s hospitals participating in this study will have up to 20 children who are undergoing treatment for acute lymphocytic leukemia and lymphoblastic lymphoma. Chemo treatments will be given for one month in a hospital setting to be followed by weekly visits in a clinic. The therapy dogs will be at all the visits.
Gilmer is hoping for preliminary study results this summer.
Swoosh, a therapy dog and his handler Michelle Thompson, participants in this animal therapy study, visit pediatric patients at Vanderbilt University Hospital.