Animals are more than just “pets”–they are guards, companions, nurses, confidants,  partners and more. This week the Assisi Blog features a guest post from Kaitlyn Teabo, a writer for The Mesothelioma Center, on how animal-assisted therapy (AAT) helps cancer patients and others feel better and recover faster.


If you have ever had a pet at home, you know the unconditional love, support, understanding, and acceptance that they provide. These qualities are what make animals trained for animal-assisted therapy (AAT) largely successful in the recovery process of cancer patients.


Animal Assisted Therapy is a type of treatment that uses trained animals and their handlers to enhance a patient’s overall well-being while promoting healing and reducing anxiety and other overwhelming feelings. There are many different AAT trained animals, but dogs and cats are the most common. Although AAT usually takes place in a hospital room or nursing home, many sessions are conducted at the comfort of a patient’s own home.



There are a number of benefits associated with animal-assisted therapy for recovering cancer patients including:

•    Increased Recovery Rate. The calming effect that animals generally have on cancer patients may exhilarate the healing process by reducing stress levels. Stress, which is often heightened among cancer patients, can weaken the body’s immune system and hinder the physical recovery process. When patients interact with animals, they feel more at ease, allowing the body to heal faster.


•    Reassurance. Hospital rooms or nursing homes can often be lonely places for recovering cancer patients and may even spark depression or anxiety. A patient may also feel similar emotions when faced with the reality of their cancer prognosis. The presence of a trained animal helps relieve some of these emotions because an animal’s acceptance is non-judgmental, unconditional and always forgiving. Cancer patients feel more at peace with a trained animal. Therapy animals also potentially increase communication with other people and facilitation social interaction. In situations where the patient may feel depressed or alone, the company of trained therapeutic animals tends to brighten the atmosphere and increase overall happiness and good humor among recovering cancer patients, which is important for emotional healing.


•    Reduced Pain. Recovering cancer patients may be on their way to a healthier life, but they are not free of pain. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy and tumor removal surgery are linked to various side effects including pain, and AAT has proven to decrease the perception of pain among cancer patients.


Animal Assisted Therapy sessions provide cancer patients with a welcoming and comfortable atmosphere that can be beneficial to their recovery. While AAT trained animals provide effective compliments to traditional methods, it should not be considered a replacement for conventional medicine.


Author bio: Kaitlyn Teabo is a writer for The Mesothelioma Center. She combines her interests in writing, cancer research and emerging scientific technology to educate the mesothelioma community about asbestos and its related diseases.



Bergeson, Boyd. (2010, Jul. 16). What Are the Benefits of Animal-Assisted Therapy for Cancer Patients? Retrieved from
What are Animal-Assisted Activities/Therapy? Retrieved from