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AAP: Dogs Help Curb Anxiety in Children With Cancer

‘Therapy dogs’ appear to ease heart rate, lower blood pressure in children fighting the disease

FRIDAY, Oct. 23, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Therapy dogs appear to provide children being treated for cancer with both physical and mental benefits, according to research scheduled to be presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics, held from Oct. 24 to 27 in Washington, D.C.

Amy McCullough, Ph.D., national director of humane research and therapy at the American Humane Association, and colleagues looked at outcomes for 68 children, aged 3 to 17, who were newly diagnosed with cancer. The patients were divided into two groups, where one group received weekly visits from a therapy dog and the other group did not.

The researchers found that blood pressure readings were typically lower and heart rates more stable among the children visited by the dogs than among those who didn’t get the visits. The dog visits also appeared to reduce anxiety levels, the team said.

In a news release from the American Academy of Pediatrics, McCullough added that the findings will help in the “understanding of the benefits of the vital bond shared between people and animals.”

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