Human-Animal Bond Further Reinforced by Research
Recent studies demonstrate benefits for cancer patients and children in military families
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – Jan. 26, 2015 – Two recently published studies sponsored by Zoetis and partner organizations support the positive benefits of the human-animal bond in two specific groups: cancer patients and military-connected children. Zoetis is dedicated to supporting research that identifies new ways companion animals enhance the health and well-being of humans.
A team of researchers at Mount Sinai Beth Israel demonstrated increases in emotional well-being and quality of life in patients undergoing intensive radiation and chemotherapy when visited daily by a certified therapy dog team. Additionally, a study from Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University illustrates how strong attachments to animals may help children in military families develop better coping skills when faced with uncertainty such as frequent moves or deployed parents.
“This research looks at two high-stress populations and once again affirms how the human-animal bond helps us cope with challenging and stressful situations to support not only our physical wellness but our mental health as well,” said J. Michael McFarland, DVM, DABVP and group director of Companion Animal Veterinary Operations for Zoetis. “As we have seen in previous notable studies, pets also offer potential cardiovascular benefits1, help children on the autism spectrum gain social skills2, and provide early warning for major health events like seizures.”
Animal-Assisted Therapy and Cancer Patients
Researchers at Mount Sinai Beth Israel looked at the emotional well-being of adult cancer patients receiving daily visits with trained and certified animal-assisted therapy teams from The Good Dog Foundation. The visits took place during the course of seven weeks while the patients were undergoing aggressive radiation and chemotherapy treatment for gastrointestinal, head or neck cancers. This marks the first time the benefits of therapy dog team interaction has been studied in adult cancer patients. In the research, a total of 25 male and 12 female adult cancer patients completed the seven week clinical study. After controlling for declines in physical well-being at each time point, the increases in emotional well-being were both statistically significant (overall p-value = 0.004) and clinically meaningful.
According to Stewart Fleishman, MD, principal investigator and Founding Director of Cancer Supportive Services at the hospital, “Patients said they would have stopped their treatments before completion, except for the presence of the certified Good Dog therapy dog and volunteer handler.”
The full results of the study can be found in the January edition of the Journal of Community and Supportive Oncology. The research was supported by The Good Dog Foundation, Zoetis and the Pfizer Foundation.
Assisting Military Children during Difficult Times
Children in military families face significant stress from factors such as frequent moves and parents deployed away from home. The study conducted by researchers at Tufts and sponsored by Zoetis found that along with other key support systems, strong attachments to animals may help these children maintain a healthy and positive outlook during their developmental years.
The online study, conducted with the assistance of the Military Child Education Coalition, collected responses on measures of human-animal interaction (HAI), positive youth development, stress and adaptive coping strategies. Responses were compiled from nearly 300 children in grade 6 through 12 who reported being from military families.
Of the respondents, approximately 70 percent of the youth had family pets and most of them had some involvement in caretaking (50 percent reported being responsible for feeding). According to the authors, the new study underscores previous research indicating that the quality and strength of the attachment between a child and their pet is an important factor. It isn’t enough to be around animals—children need to be engaged in that relationship.
“We found that kids with deployed parents who had developed a deep bond with a family pet reported having better coping strategies in dealing the stress,” said Megan Mueller, Ph.D., the paper’s author and a developmental psychologist and research assistant professor at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. The study is published in the October 2014 online edition of Applied Developmental Science.
For more information on how Zoetis supports the human-animal bond, visit www.zoetisUS.com.
Zoetis (zō-EH-tis) is the leading animal health company, dedicated to supporting its customers and their businesses. Building on more than 60 years of experience in animal health, Zoetis discovers, develops, manufactures and markets veterinary vaccines and medicines, complemented by diagnostic products and genetic tests and supported by a range of services. In 2013, the company generated annual revenues of $4.6 billion. With approximately 9,800 employees worldwide at the beginning of 2014, Zoetis has a local presence in approximately 70 countries, including 27 manufacturing facilities in 10 countries. Its products serve veterinarians, livestock producers and people who raise and care for farm and companion animals in 120 countries. For more information, visit www.zoetisUS.com.
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