Coping With Emotions

The Best Emotional Support Dog Breeds and Benefits for Cancer Patients

A visit from a friendly dog can decrease stress and feelings of isolation, which is crucial for cancer patients.

There’s nothing quite like the love of man’s best friend, and almost everyone can appreciate the cuddly company of a friendly dog. Cancer patients, and their family caregivers, can reap the benefits of visits from the best emotional support dog breeds. Here is what you need to know about comfort dogs, planning a successful visit and potential benefits.

Comfort Dogs

A dog does not have to be a certified therapy dog to bring joy to cancer patients and caregivers. However, therapy dogs are more likely to be invited into a hospital or clinical setting, thanks to their extensive training and predictable temperament. According to Canine Journal, therapy dogs are specially trained to provide comfort and affection to people in clinical settings, while emotional support dogs provide their owners with therapeutic benefits simply by being naturally good companions. In any case, dogs are excellent medicine.

Benefits of Dog Visits

Dogs can give cancer patients different kinds of support throughout their treatment and survivorship plans. According to the National Foundation for Cancer Research, visits from a friendly dog can decrease feelings of loneliness and isolation, which are common in cancer patients during treatment. Furthermore, dogs can lower blood pressure and stress, soothing the psyches of patients and caregivers during harrowing times. Even more amazing, some dogs can correctly sniff out certain types of cancer! It’s true — studies have shown that Labrador Retrievers and German Shepherds are able to detect cancer with incredible accuracy, making them two of the best emotional support dog breeds for cancer patients.

Tips for a Successful Visit

If interacting with a dog appeals to you, and if you don’t already have a canine companion at home, consider planning a visit.

Search for a trained therapy dog near you by contacting one of the therapy dog organizations listed here by the American Kennel Club. Someone there will help you find a therapy dog to visit you in your home or give you a list of upcoming therapy dog groups where you can join in the fun (and meet some new human friends, too).

When your visit is scheduled, you may want to purchase some treats or toys. However, most therapy dogs bring their own favorite treats and toys. You’ll love getting to know the therapy dog and the handler during your time together.

If you already have a dog at home, take advantage of that companionship and bond during your cancer treatment. When you feel up to it, leash your dog for a walk, so you both can get some exercise. If you find that you can’t keep up with the exercise needs of your pup, ask a friend to help, or hire a dog walker to fill in that gap. A well-exercised dog is a much better companion and will be ready to snuggle up for some couch time. If you need to go to the hospital for a short-term stay, ask a trusted friend or neighbor to care for your dog while you are away.

Dogs can provide entertainment, encouragement, exercise and more for cancer patients and caregivers. They can be a bright spot during an otherwise dark time. Here’s to dogs, and to the humans who love them!

If you also need some extra human support during cancer treatment, consider reaching out to a support group or program for your type of cancer.

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Haley Burress
Haley Burress