Pet therapy, also known as animal-assisted therapy, is becoming a more common treatment method that helps improve the quality of life for patients facing cancer, such as mesothelioma. Research suggests this form of alternative therapy has many positive medical applications.

Veteran patient in a hospital bed experiencing pet therapy There is no denying the amazing effect animals can have on people. Bringing an animal into a room instantly puts everyone in a good mood and lifts their spirits.

“When I look into the eyes of an animal, I do not see an animal. I see a living being. I see a friend. I feel a soul.”
-Anthony Douglas Williams

What are Therapy Animals?

The vast majority of therapy animals are dogs; however, various animals can be used. Pet Partners, the leading therapy animal organization in the United States, offers a registration program for prospective volunteers and they accept:

  • Cats
  • Equines
  • Rabbits
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Llamas and Alpacas
  • Birds
  • Rats
  • Miniature Pigs

The list of acceptable therapy animals is fairly extensive. Regardless of species, there are many qualities the animal must possess in order to be approved for pet therapy.

Some qualifications are:

  • Age
  • Time spent with handler
  • No history of aggression
  • Basic obedience skills
  • Welcoming to social interaction

These qualities are important because they will maximize the effect of the human-animal bond for the patient.

The Human-Animal Bond

As defined by the American Veterinary Medical Association, “the human-animal bond is a mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship between people and animals that is influenced by behaviors that are essential to the health and well-being of both.”

The human-animal bond is the main reason animal-assisted therapy is so effective. Research suggests that humans and animals have a positive impact on each other’s lives.

For instance, a nonprofit called Hand in Paw helps bring comfort to cancer patients by sending volunteers and their pets to hospitals. Learn more about this organization and the effect that animal-assisted therapy can have on patients in this short video.

Therapy Animals’ Effects

There have been various studies in the past decade that have aimed to research and legitimize the effects of animal-assisted therapy. Numerous studies have discovered that interaction with animals improves a patient’s mood.

Elder patient with a collie dog having pet therapyPet therapy may help as an alternative form of treatment for a mesothelioma patient. It may help decrease a patient’s pain, fatigue, depression, and other issues that they might face after their diagnosis or when undergoing treatment.

Research also suggests that pet therapy may help improve a patient’s interaction and communication with their doctors. It should be noted that these studies are still in their preliminary stages and further research will need to be conducted.

Like every form of alternative therapy, a doctor should be consulted to determine the possible pros and cons. If your physician determines that you’re healthy enough for animal-assisted therapy, inquire whether your local hospital has a program to help facilitate a therapy animal visit.

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    About the Writer, Robert Lethbridge

    Robert Lethbridge is member of the community outreach team at Mesothelioma Guide. His goal is to improve the lives of those affected by mesothelioma by increasing awareness.