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7 Ways Dogs Help People with Cancer

Dogs are known as “man’s best friend.”  They are loyal companions, always excited to see you, follow your every word and will never desert you.  Simply put, they love you unconditionally and aren’t afraid to show it.  Research now shows there are also health-related benefits to spending time with these adorable, furry, four-legged friends.

1. Dogs can smell cancer.
Canines smell up to 1,000 times more accurately than humans.  In multiple laboratory studies, dogs have been able to detect certain cancers by smelling breath or urine samples.
In one study, a Labrador retriever trained in cancer scent detection correctly identified 91% of breath samples and 97% of stool samples from patients with colon cancer. In another study, a German shepherd identified ovarian cancer malignancies form tissue samples with 90% accuracy.  Dogs might one day be used in conjunction with existing diagnostic tests to detect cancer at its earliest stages when it’s most treatable.

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2. Dogs are good for your overall health and heart.

One study
found that people with pets had significantly lower heart rates and blood pressure than those without pets. In another study, one year after suffering a heart attack people with dogs were more likely to be alive than those who did not have a dog.

3. Dogs can significantly improve your mood.
Cancer can cause depression and feelings of isolation.  Another study found that cancer patients who spent time with a therapy dog prior to treatment reported improved emotional and social well-being, even while their physical well-being was in decline during chemotherapy.

4. Dogs are good stress relievers.

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ICYDK: Dogs can suffer from cancer just like people. November 7th is National Canine Lymphoma Awareness Day, a day created to increase awareness and understanding of canine lymphoma. It’s a good time to give your dog an extra hug or belly rub to let them know how special they are.

Going through cancer treatment can be stressful and dogs can provide a welcome distraction. Petting them releases endorphins that relieve stress and improve mood.  This can help patients forget about their pain or frustrations for a period of time.

5. Dogs are great company.
Going through cancer treatment can be a lonely experience.   Even if you have a strong support system, you may not be able to share your inner most feelings with them.  Dogs are always eager to listen… and they know how to keep a secret.

6. Service dogs can aid in recovery and independence.
When most people think of service dogs, they think of guide dogs for the blind.  But medical service dogs can also be trained to bark for help, retrieve a phone, assist in walking, and opening and closing doors.  They can even be trained to pick up dropped items or turn on/off lights and appliances.    This can be especially helpful for cancer patients who have lost a limb or have difficulty getting around as a result of treatment.

7. Walking a dog is great exercise.
dog-cancer-3Adding some form of exercise to your daily routine – even during cancer treatment – will enhance your physical well-being and aid in your recovery.  Cancer can literally be exhausting.  Research has shown that cancer patients who exercise regularly have 40% to 50% less fatigue.  Taking your dog for a walk several times a day provides the perfect amount of moderate exercise needed.

Whether you are a dog owner or have access to therapy dogs at your infusion clinics, dogs have the ability to help people with cancer better cope with their diagnosis, treatment and beyond.

Share with us how your dog helps you get through the day.

Comments(2)

  1. REPLY
    Joan Pierce says

    My husband is in a memory care facility. My dog is there to greet me when I come home. She gets me going either for a walk or to hit tennis balls for her to retrieve. She likes to keep to a schedule so I feed her at the same time every day and go to bed about the same time. Yes she sleeps in my room so I have some one to say “goodnight up”.

    • REPLY
      Robyn Stoller says

      Thank you for sharing your story with us! Dogs are really amazing.

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