By now, we’ve all heard about hero service dogs who help patients through the difficulties of cancer treatment. There are physical and emotional benefits to spending some time with dogs while you’re undergoing significant medical treatment.
This is why it’s increasingly popular for patients to participate in animal visiting programs, get service dogs, emotional support dogs, or just adopt a pet during these hard times.
If you or a family member are thinking about getting a dog during treatment, keep reading to learn about some of these canine benefits and how you can get some dog love in your life.
Physical Health Benefits
Dog lovers know how your mood improves after spending some time with a furry friend, but did you know it’s actually good for your physical health?
Many cancer patients struggle with chronic pain and fatigue. Research suggests that spending time with dogs reduces patients’ pain and fatigue levels. On days where you have a bit more energy, a short walk or just some cuddles in bed can really help you feel better.
Interacting with dogs can also lower your blood pressure, which is a concern for many cancer patients. Spending time with a pet or therapy dog is a way to supplement medication and help manage this health factor for many patients.
Emotional Health Benefits
Cancer treatment is a difficult time for you and your family. Cancer patients who have the opportunity to have dog visitors during their treatments show reduced depression and anxiety levels compared to patients who don’t.
Animals have a way of offering emotional support during trying times when others have difficulty. It can feel like a very lonely time. Dogs can help out with this too, as they help reduce feelings of isolation and keep you company during stressful times.
It’s important to get professional emotional support while undergoing cancer treatment. A dog isn’t a cure-all, but they’ve even been shown to increase therapy participation in cancer patients. It’s nice to have a furry friend with you at your therapy appointments for extra support.
4 Ways to Spend Time With a Dog during Cancer Treatment
There are many ways that you can spend time with dogs during your cancer treatment to benefit from their company. Let’s discuss some different options so you can decide which strategy works best for you.
- Participate in a Therapy Dog Program
If you’re not able to take care of a dog or live with people with severe allergies, a therapy dog program might be best for you. Therapy dogs make visits to patients so that they can spend some time with a dog without committing to adopting one.
Therapy dogs are adult dogs that don’t require specific training but they do have a good handle on the basics to make visits safe. These dogs can be any breed and they have an ideal temperament for visiting many different patients.
- Adopt an Emotional Support Animal (ESA)
Emotional support animals (ESAs) are pets that have special paperwork to show that they’ve been prescribed by a professional to support a patient’s emotional wellbeing.
ESAs don’t usually have special training, as service animals do, but they’re generally allowed in more public spaces than a regular pet. These pets offer significant emotional support to their humans and almost any pet can be an ESA.
- Get a Service Dog
Service dogs are specially trained to perform actions that help people with disabilities retain as much independence as possible. They’re trained to respond to commands, such as opening doors for their owners, and alert to medical issues, such as oncoming fainting spells.
These dogs are rigorously trained by professionals, usually from puppyhood. In rare instances, you can train your pet to be your service dog. This takes a lot of work, especially because your health can depend on your service dog.
Service dogs are ideal for patients who struggle with independence because these animals are legally allowed to go wherever their owner goes.
- Adopt a Pet
If you don’t need a highly-trained service dog, you can still benefit from adopting a pet. These emotional and health benefits aren’t affected by whether or not your dog is a trained service dog.
While it’s amazing that dogs can help us in so many ways, remember that they also help us just by being our friends. For more information on how dogs can offer support throughout your cancer treatment, check out the visual below.
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