Therapy dogs soothe parents of cancer patients, study finds

A new study showed that therapy dogs not only decreased worries for children undergoing cancer treatment, but also “significantly decreased” stress for the sick kids’ parents.

“Today” reported the unexpected results of research by American Humane and several children’s hospitals.

Regular visits from puppies helped pediatric cancer patients worry less about their health and feel more comfortable about how they were doing in school, “Today” reported. But the children’s overall stress and anxiety didn’t differ from those of children who hadn’t been spending time with the dogs.

Researchers found that visits from therapy dogs helped parents experience less stress, especially when talking to doctors or thinking about their children’s treatment, “Today” reported. The visits also helped improve the adults’ overall emotional state, the study found.

“Today” reported that what benefits parents likely benefits the entire family, according to Amy McCullough, the study’s principal investigator and a national director at American Humane.

“Seeing their child comforted by a therapy dog helped reduce the emotional distress for parents,” McCullough told “Today.” “So it’s something that the whole family can improve from. When the parents are benefiting, it’s likely that the child is benefiting as well.”