Dog Therapy with Cancer Treatment

  • Dawn A. Marcus

Key Chapter Points

  • Therapy dog visits can improve physical and psychosocial factors in ­cancer patients.

  • Both pediatric and adult cancer patients can benefit from complementary therapy dog visits.

  • Cancer patients and the parents of children being treated for cancer usually consider therapy dog interventions to be treatment.

  • Therapy dog benefits have been reported in patients undergoing diagnostic testing and during inpatient cancer care, chemotherapy, and end-of-life care.


Chemotherapy Compassion fatigue End-of-life Grief counseling Hospice Inpatient Radiation Secondary survivors Staff 


  1. 1.
    Wu AS, Niedra R, Pendergast L, McCrindle BW. Acceptability and impact of pet visitation on a pediatric cardiology inpatient unit. J Pediatr Nurs. 2002;17:354–62.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    DeCourcey M, Russell AC, Keister KJ. Animal-assisted therapy. Evaluation and implementation of a complementary therapy to improve the psychological and physiological health of critically ill patients. Dimens Crit Care Nurs. 2010;29:211–4.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Muschel IJ. Pet therapy with terminal cancer patients. Soc Casework. 1984;65:451–8.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Joseph M. Moments with Baxter: comfort and love from the world’s best therapy dog. San Diego, CA: Sage Press; 1997.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Bussotti EA, Ribeiro Leão E, Nascimento Chimentão DM, Rodrigues Silva CP. Individualized care: can I bring my dog? Rev Esc Enferm USP. 2005;39:195–201.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Vos PJ, Visser AP, Garssen B, Duivenvoorden HJ, de Haes HM. Effects of delayed psychosocial interventions versus early psychosocial interventions for women with early stage breast cancer. Patient Educ Counsel. 2006;60:212–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Goodwin PJ, Leszcz M, Ennis M, et al. The effect of group psychosocial support on survival in metastatic breast cancer. N Engl J Med. 2001;345:1719–26.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    de Chico Cicogna E, Nasciemento LC, de Lima RA. Children and adolescents with cancer: experiences with chemotherapy. Rev Lat Am Enfermagem. 2010;18:864–72.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Johnson RA, Meadows RL, Haubner JS, Sevedge K. Human–animal interaction. A complementary/alternative medical (CAM) intervention for cancer patients. Am Behav Sci. 2003;47:55–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Salmela M, Salanterä S, Ruotsalainen T, Aronen ET. Coping strategies for hospital-related fears in pre-school-aged children. J Paediatr Child Health. 2010;46:108–14.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Gagnon J, Bouchard F, Landry M, et al. Implementing a hospital-based animal therapy program for children with cancer: a descriptive study. Can Oncol Nurs J. 2004;14:217–22.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Bouchard F, Landry M, Belles-Isles M, Gagnon J. A magical dream: a pilot project in animal-assisted therapy in pediatric oncology. Can Oncol Nurs J. 2004;14:14–7.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Wicks L, Mitchell A. The adolescent cancer experience: loss of control and benefit finding. Eur J Canc Care. 2010;19:778–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    McCaffrey CN. Major stressors and their effect on the well-being of children with cancer. J Pediatr Nurs. 2006;21:59–66.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Caprilli S, Messeri A. Animal-assisted activity at A. Meyer Children’s Hospital: a pilot study. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2006;3:379–83.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Murray JS. The lived experience of childhood cancer: one sibling’s perspective. Issues Compr Pediatr Nurs. 1998;21:217–27.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Ruchman R, Ruchman A, Jaeger J, Durand D, Kelly P. Animal-assisted anxiolysis prior to MRI. Am J Roentgenol. 2001;196:A120–34.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Johnson RA, Meadows RL, Haubner JS, Sevedge K. Animal-assisted activity among patients with cancer: effects on mood, fatigue, self-perceived health, and sense of coherence. Oncol Nurs Forum. 2008;35:225–32.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Orlandi M, Trangeled K, Mambrini A, et al. Pet therapy effects on oncological day hospital patients undergoing chemotherapy treatment. Anticancer Res. 2007;27:4301–4.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Rahmin-Jamal S, Sarte A, Kozak J, et al. Hospice residents’ interest in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) at end of life: a pilot study in hospice residences in British Columbia. J Palliat Care. 2011;27:134–40.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Belletti M, Mallia L, Lucidi F, et al. Complementary therapy and support services for formal and informal caregivers in Italian palliative care hospices: an exploratory and descriptive study. Support Care Canc. 2011;19:1939–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Lander DA, Graham-Pole JR. Love medicine for the dying and their caregivers: the body of evidence. J Health Psychol. 2008;13:201–12.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Tracy MF, Chlan L. Nonpharmacological interventions to manage common symptoms in patients receiving mechanical ventilation. Crit Care Nurse. 2011;31:19–29.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Clark PG, Brethwaite DS, Gnesdiloff S. Providing support at time of death from cancer: results of a 5-year post-bereavement group study. J Soc Work End Life Palliat Care. 2011;7:195–215.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Holtslander LF, McMillan SC. Depressive symptoms, grief, and complicated grief among family caregivers of patients with advanced cancer three months into bereavement. Oncol Nurs Forum. 2011;38:60–5.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Guldin MB, Vedsted P, Zahariae R, Olesen F, Jensen AB. Complicated grief and need for professional support in family caregivers of cancer patients in palliative care: a longitudinal cohort study. Support Care Canc, in press.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Allen K. Coping with life changes and transitions: the role of the pet. Interactions. 1995;13:5–8.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Teso J. The effect of a therapy dog on the effectiveness of a child life intervention with adolescents experiencing grief and loss. Thesis approved April 2011. Available at: Accessed Sep 2011.
  29. 29.
    Perry B, Toffner G, Merrick T, Dalton J. An exploration of the experience of compassion fatigue in clinical oncology nurses. Can Oncol Nurs J. 2011;21:91–105.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Saltmarsh K, De Vries K. The paradoxical image of chemotherapy: a phenomenological description of nurses’ experiences of administering chemotherapy. Eur J Canc Care. 2008;17:500–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Chinner TL, Dalziel FR. An exploratory study on the viability and efficacy of a pet-facilitated therapy project within a hospice. J Palliat Care. 1991;7:13–20.PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dawn A. Marcus
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of AnesthesiologyUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA

Personalised recommendations