The Healing Effects of a Pet

Is there a special 4-legged friend that is or was part of your healing process as a cancer patient?

It has often been said that a dog is “man’s best friend”, this statement is never more accurate than when someone is suffering the ill effects of cancer. From radiation to chemotherapy, to side effects of drugs to just plain suffering because it hurts, there is something real and comforting about a loving pet that truly wants to be by your side, wherever you are and however you are feeling.

Aside from the obvious that a pet is always glad to see you, never or seldom throws a tantrum to get your attention, don’t require constant entertaining and the simplest gestures seem to put them into a tail wagging frenzy. Besides all of these benefits let’s explore some of the more practical ones:

  • Relaxation and Calming Influence – Whenever a cancer patient spends time with a pet it is usually soothing to all of the major senses. If the day has been particularly complicated, frustrating or painful, a pet can provide a soothing and calming influence to allow the body to relax and allow the natural healing ability to begin.
  • Safety – If you live alone or are often left alone, then a pet can have a reassuring sense of safety and companionship. Having an alert system in case there is trouble provides an already on edge cancer patient with a sense they are not alone and therefore some real or imagined fears dissipate.
  • Tactile Sensation Therapy – The process of “petting” is in itself therapeutic. When a cancer patient or anyone for that matter pets an animal, the body releases endorphins, which inherently reduce stress and improve that persons mood, whatever it might be
  • Provides a Distraction – Paying attention to a pet regardless of it being a dog, cat, bird, hamster or something else, the process of caring for your special friend allows a patient to forget about their own pain and discomfort even for a brief time, which invites healing and improved health on many levels.
  • Someone to Talk Too – A pet is usually a wonderful listener and no matter what you say, how you vent, emotions shared or deep secrets made public. Your pet will never judge, have a contrary opinion, try to impose their philosophy or suggestions on you or try to get overly involved in thinking they know how you feel. Let’s face it a fireplace, a trusted pet and an evening talking about life, or not saying anything is in itself therapeutic.
  • Socialization – If a patient is having a hard time articulating how they feel to doctors and medical personnel, sometimes it’s helpful to practice on a pet. Inviting conversation allows a social interaction that is pivotal in a healthy outlook. The feeling of isolation and being alone inherently closes down these interaction channels as feelings of insecurity take over.

We love our pets and we love the influence they have on anyone that truly needs a friend, always happy to see you, doesn’t care about how you look, whether you are dressed well or not at all and just happy to follow you around and be part of your life.

If you have a Special Pet in Your Life – Give them a hug and say thanks for being there no matter what!

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