Animal Therapy: How Pets Can Help Mesothelioma Patients

Pets have a way of bringing out the best in people, but for those living with mesothelioma or any other cancer, the benefits of being around animals can help reduce stress, alleviate symptom pain, and much more.

Golden retriever

What is Animal Therapy?

Throughout history, animals have been a part of human lives, assisting them and offering close companionship. The first instance of pets for therapeutic purposes dates back to the 1800s, when “founder of modern nursing,” Florence Nightingale, observed small children (who lived in mental health facilities) showing markedly reduced anxiety after spending time with animals.

Animal therapy, also known as pet therapy, continued to evolve, including a number of experiments and projects conducted by scientists and organization, including a 1977 project by the Delta Society (Pet Partners), an organization that dedicates its time to helping improve human health with the assistance of therapy animals. Today, animal therapy is widespread, used across the nation and many parts of the world.

How Does Pet Therapy Work?

According to the Mayo Clinic, pet therapy can include both animal-assisted therapy services and animal-assisted activities. Animal-assisted therapy services is conducted by qualified professionals who dogs and other service animals to help people better cope with invasive illnesses such as mesothelioma. Animal-assisted activities serve a more general purpose of providing a mesothelioma patient with comfort and companionship.

The Cancer Treatment Centers of America wrote that per Cynthia Ingram, Animal Therapy Coordinator at Cancer Treatment Centers of America at Midwestern Regional Medical Center, studies have shown a marked difference after patients started animal therapy.

“Studies have shown that having a therapy dog in a hospital may lower anxiety and depression. Therapy dogs can provide for a sense of comfort and overall well-being, and present a more home-like atmosphere.”

Benefits of Animal Therapy for Mesothelioma Patients

Other benefits of animal therapy include:

  • A decrease in the need for pain medication
  • Decreased feeling of anxiety and isolation
  • Increase in positive tactile sensation
  • Reduction of risk for heart attack, stroke
  • Increase in focus and attention
  • Decrease in fatigue

Risks of Animal Therapy

While there are many proven benefits of animal therapy, there are also risks to be aware. The risks may not apply to every patient, but it’s important to understand each one before making the decision to start animal therapy.

  • Animal behavior problems: Therapy pets are screened and trained, but just like people, they may sometimes have behavior issues that can be off-putting to patients
  • Diseases: Disease transmission from pet to human is extremely small, but there still is a tiny risk that it can occur
  • Fear of animals: Some people fear animals. If the patient has a deep fear of dogs, then animal therapy likely isn’t an ideal choice

Where to Find Animal Therapy

The first step in finding animal therapy for a mesothelioma patient is with a cancer center. If you need assistance finding a nearby cancer center that offers pet therapy, feel free contact us. Likewise, you can also try asking your physician. A number of cancer centers offer comprehensive pet therapy programs, including Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center’s pet therapy program, Siteman Cancer Center’s TOUCH program, and Memorial Sloan Kettering’s canine therapy program.

Additional Help and Resources for Mesothelioma Victims

If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, or asbestosis, you may be eligible for substantial compensation. Fill out our form to receive our free Financial Compensation Packet. Our packet is loaded with information on leading mesothelioma attorneys in your area, how to file a claim for asbestos trust funds, how to get paid in 90 days, and more. For additional assistance, contact us at 800-793-4540.

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