Over the years, therapy dogs have brought joy and comfort to patients, young and old, undergoing treatment for life threatening illnesses. The happy distraction these animals provide can be readily seen in the smiles and laughs they deliver to folks in trying times -- but now new research is aiming to find conclusively that four paws and a wagging tail can truly be the best medicine.
Five pediatric oncology clinics across the country are participating in a new Canines and Childhood Cancer Study, designed to measure what impact therapy dogs have on reducing stress levels in young patients and their families during office visits.
This is the first time researchers have sought to prove that the comforting presence of animals does have an observable influence on patients' physical and emotional well-being.
"It's really this crucial exploration of the child-animal bond and how that is a crucial path to healing," says Robin Ganzert, president of the American Humane Association, which is helping to back the study.