The experts who staff the mind-body medicine department at Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) hospitals understand the role emotional and physical health play in patient treatment and recovery. The mind-body team offers a variety of integrative oncology services to support patients before, during and after treatment. Animal-assisted therapy is one method than may bring patients, their families and caregivers relief from pain, stress and anxiety. As part of the animal assisted therapy program at CTCA®, our therapy dogs visit the hospitals throughout the week, and are always accompanied by their owners.
Animal-assisted therapy may benefit patients in a variety of ways. The simple act of cuddling or petting a dog may trigger “feel good” endorphins. This natural form of stress and pain relief may also boost the immune system. A visit with a therapy dog may also act as a diversion. It may give patients a much-needed break from cancer and the anxiety and worry it often triggers. Animal-assisted therapy may also offer a meaningful connection to patients who feel isolated in their cancer journey. Even loved ones who offer support might not fully understand what patients are feeling. A therapy dog can provide unconditional love, warmth and affection. Therapy dogs provide companionship, and they are trained to understand and respond to human emotions.
Family members and caregivers who experience their own stress over a loved one’s illness may also benefit from interacting with a therapy dog. Like many other mind-body techniques, animal-assisted therapy directs patients’ focus on the present moment and away from worrying about the future.