Therapy dogs have mixed results for childhood cancer patients, parents

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Visits with therapy dogs have mixed results for childhood cancer patients and their parents, according to a study.

American Humane, with funding from Zoetis, began the Canines and Childhood Cancer Study in 2010. The full clinical trial took place between 2014 and 2016.

"Measuring the Effects of an Animal-Assisted Intervention for Pediatric Oncology Patients and Their Parents: A Multisite Randomized Controlled Trial," available at, appeared online Dec. 21, 2017, in the Journal of Pediatric Oncology Nursing. Researchers sought to determine the effects of visits with therapy dogs on stress and health-related quality of life for children in whom cancer was newly diagnosed and their parents. Measures included the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, the Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory, the Pediatric Inventory for Parents, and the children’s blood pressure and heart rate.

According to the paper, "Overall, no significant differences in either stress and anxiety or HRQoL between intervention and control group patients over time were found. ... However, PIP study data show that certain aspects of stress among parents in the intervention group significantly improved with time, as compared to parents in the control group."

The Human Animal Bond Research Institute provided a grant to study the effects of the therapeutic visits on the therapy dogs. Data indicated that the dogs had no signs suggesting that the activities caused distress or harmed the welfare of the animals. "Physiological and behavioral effects of animal-assisted interventions on therapy dogs in pediatric oncology settings," available at, appeared online Dec. 7 in Applied Animal Behaviour Science.

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Taking on cancer (Jan. 15, 2014)