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Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Animal-assisted therapy - Pet therapy

Animal assisted therapy (AAT), also known as pet therapy, is a form of therapy that uses dogs and other animals to help people cope with health problems, including cancer. Visiting with a certified therapy pet in the hospital may provide patients and their families with comfort, relief and a distraction from pain, discomfort and stress.

AAT has been shown to reduce stress, improve mood and energy levels, and decrease perceived pain and anxiety. It may also provide a sense of companionship that combats feelings of isolation.

Dogs are most commonly therapy pets, although other domesticated pets, farm animals and even dolphins have been used in some circumstances.

Therapy dogs are trained and certified to work with patients. During a visit from a therapy dog, the dog’s owner walks the dog through the hospital, stopping to greet people who would like a visit. The visits vary in length, but generally last anywhere between five and 15 minutes. It is important that patients meet certain health criteria and are cleared by their oncologist to receive AAT.

We have certified therapy dogs at all five of our hospitals. As part of CTCA’s animal assisted therapy program, our therapy dogs visit the hospitals throughout the week, and are always accompanied by their owners. Learn more about our Mind-Body Medicine program.