Therapy dogs – the chemotherapy that just about everyone wants to get, specially a kid!

Ardent dog lover speaking! Nothing can even get close to that warm fuzzy feel you get when you see your dog get so excited about your arrival after even just about an hour or two of absence. Nothing can feel as comforting as resting your head on your dog’s fur or holding his paw and sitting beside him. There’s just something about dogs. When I was told therapy dogs were being used in cancer therapy, was I surprised? Most definitely not!nbb

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1 Dogs over humans? Hell, anyday!

The human-dog love story dates back to over a thousand years ago. According to me, it is ineligible to refer to a dog as a mere ‘pet’. Once you happen to own a dog, he/she becomes a part of your life and a member of your family. A dog is the quintessential partner for all your endeavors. A dog has the knack of identifying your mood and responding accordingly. The emotional connect you can share with a dog is unparalleled. And now, a recent study has claimed that therapy dogs are now being used to mitigate the effects of cancer.

Dogs over humans? Hell, anyday!

Image Source: www.stuffpoint.com

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2 So who are these guys, these therapy dogs?

Dogs usually aren’t allowed in hospitals, but therapy dogs are an exception. This is sort of like the placebo effect, only I don’t think I can render dogs as ‘inactive substances’. The simple act of petting and just being with a dog can heal you psychologically, if suffering from cancer. Recent studies have attested this idea with scientific proof.

These dogs don’t really undergo any sort of rigorous training for their service, like guide dogs, for example. These dogs are just domesticated pets, provided with a little training, in order to sympathize (in their way) with the emotions of the people they’re dealing with.

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So who are these guys, these therapy dogs?

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Therapy dogs are growing in terms of popularity around the world. Bizarre, but true, but it’s not only dogs (though the most popular) that are involved in this process. Even goats and cows are used.

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3 The therapy dog experiment

Lead researcher Amy McCullough and her team of researchers tried this out and observed the outcomes for 68 children, aged 3 to 17, who were diagnosed with cancer rather recently at 5 hospitals around the U.S., along with 31 therapy dogs.The kids were separated into two groups, where one group received weekly visits from a therapy dog and the other group did not.

There was quite a lot that took place during the visits. The children petted and talked to the therapy dogs, brushed their fur, watched the dog perform tricks or obey commands, learned about different dog breeds, and looked at pictures of dogs; all to provide a certain sense of relief and recreation.

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The therapy dog experiment

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4 What the results looked like?

The researchers observed that blood pressure readings were typically lower and heart rates more stable among the children who were visited by the dogs than among those ones who did not get those fun-loving visits. Reduced anxiety levels were also noted amongst those who were with the dogs.

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If a child is suffering from an ailment, particularly cancer, then that’s equivalent to his/her parent suffering from it with them. Parents are normally subject to mental turmoil if their ward is sick. Dr. McCullough and her colleagues also recorded the calming effect of the therapy dogs on the children’s parents. Parents of kids in the dog therapy group recorded a more consistent anxiety level and a gradual reduction in anxiety at the end of the session.

What the results looked like?

Image Source: www.thedogfiles.com

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McCullough and her colleagues were also interested in the dogs’ perspective, to see if these sessions are mutually beneficial or not. The therapy sessions are being recorded on video such that handlers can properly review the videos and rate their dogs’ temperament and stress levels as these dogs are providing some great relief to some really stressed out people. The levels of cortisone, the stress hormone in the dogs’ saliva are being noted before and after the therapy sessions. This information is being given to their handlers so that they can improve the training for their dogs and help cancer patients battle he disease with a smile.

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