People with mesothelioma cancer commonly cope with physical and emotional pain to varying degrees. Patients who like animals may consider pet therapy as an alternative mesothelioma treatment. Pet therapy can help reduce physical pain and boost mental health.
Pet therapy involves interaction with an animal to help people cope with and recover from illness. An animal companion can ease feelings of stress and offer comfort to those facing cancer.
Scientific research shows pet therapy benefits cancer patients in numerous ways.
Proven Benefits of Pet Therapy
Spending time with a pet helps mesothelioma patients cope with the physical and mental challenges of cancer.
Physical benefits of pet therapy include:
- Lower blood pressure
- Increased alertness
- Higher endorphin levels
- Reduced pain
- Stimulation of relaxation response by petting an animal
Mental health benefits of pet therapy include:
- Elevated mood, lessened depression
- Decreased feelings of isolation and loneliness
- Comfort and companionship
- Decreased anxiety
- Increased motivation
- Boredom relief
Other benefits include lower medication costs and potentially longer life.
One scientific study on pet therapy documented a 57 percent reduction in stress and mood disturbances among participants.
How Pet Therapy Works
Pet therapy takes many forms. It may involve interaction with pets in a hospital or therapy setting, as well as owning and caring for a pet at home.
The animals most commonly used for pet therapy include dogs and cats. Other domesticated animals, such as fish and hamsters, may be used. Farm animals, such as horses, and marine mammals, such as dolphins, are used as well.
Animals used for therapeutic visitation, such as in hospitals, are specially trained to be around medical equipment and offer comfort to patients. Professional handlers accompany therapy pets during visitation and patients are encouraged to ask the handler questions about the pet.
Some animals assist physical and occupational therapists. Known as animal-assisted therapy, this form of pet therapy involves animals, especially dogs, in rehabilitation exercises. For example, a dog might play fetch with a patient who needs to improve motion in their limbs.
Cancer patients and their caregivers who can care for a pet at home often benefit from the companionship and comfort a pet provides. For example, taking a dog for a short walk motivates cancer patients to remain active. Curling up with a cat on the couch promotes a relaxation response, while petting a cat releases oxytocin, a feel-good endorphin that reduces pain.
Anyone with cancer will benefit from pet therapy, whether in the hospital, rehab facility or at home. Interacting with a friendly, fluffy animal promotes feelings of joy and comfort, and encourages people in tough situations to keep going. Ask your oncologist if pet therapy is available at your cancer center.