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National study shows therapy dogs can aid kids undergoing cancer treatment

January 4, 2018 

While Harleigh Turner explains the theories of family dynamics behind her work as a child life specialist at Children’s Hospital of Georgia, her colleague scoots down to lie on the floor at her feet. Nugget the therapy dog not only aids Turner in her work with patients but new research shows she can provide important benefits for child cancer patients and their families.


In a study published in the Journal of Pediatric Oncology Nursing, 106 children at five children’s hospitals around the country were randomized to either receive weekly visits for four months with a therapy dog like Nugget or just receive standard therapy. Children in both groups had less anxiety at the end of the study, which could be them learning to live with a “new normal,” said Dr. Amy McCullough, principal investigator on the study and national director for humane research at American Humane, which helped sponsor the study.

But children who got regular visits from the therapy dogs also had less disease-related worry and had improved school function, “so that was positive as well.” she said. 

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