It is no surprise that people enjoy the company of a pet, especially when they are sick. Research shows that having a pet by your side during your cancer journey can help you maintain a positive mentality. Some hospitals have even recognized the value of having a doggy mascot wandering their halls to assist children suffering from cancer and other disorders.
Pets are known to relieve anxiety and depression in people suffering from PTSD and chronic illnesses. Animals can often sense when something is not right or if you are not feeling well. Many will respond by finding a way to comfort you—whether they place a paw in your lap or drop their head to your thigh.
Petting your dog or another animal releases endorphins, lowering levels of cortisol in the body, which can help decrease your blood pressure and help relax you.
One study found that owning a dog reduced the risk of dying prematurely by 24%. Another research of 336,000 men and women discovered that dog owners had better health after a major heart attack than those who did not own a dog.
Another fantastic benefit of having an animal is that they always react the same way when they see us. A cancer diagnosis can feel lonely, especially when everyone we know begins to seem sad and concerned as soon as they learn of our diagnoses. Sometimes it feels like even the people closest to us begin to look at us differently. Animals, especially dogs and cats, do not care how we look. They are happy to see us even if we have lost all our hair.
According to one cancer sufferer, having a dog allows you to “live in the now.”
Many cancer patients were left with uneasiness about the world around them and their health during covid-19 lock downs. Touching and interaction with other people are essential, especially when battling cancer, as isolation can be devastating. Those going through cancer who had pets fared significantly better mentally throughout the pandemic because even non-human touch helped them cope over extended periods of isolation.
What about patients who don’t want to care for an animal when they need to take care of themselves? Here are some suggestions if you want the closeness of an animal without responsibility:
- Take a walk or a slow drive in a wooded area to listen to the birds. The sounds of nature can be very soothing.
- Go to a zoo or a farm to be around animals. Just seeing them can help bring a sense of calm and comfort. Horses are also great animals to be around, like dogs and cats, they are very perceptive to the emotions of a person.
- Volunteer at an animal rescue. These animals need the touch and warmth of a human just as much as you do. The affection will undoubtedly be returned.
- Visit a family member or a friend who has an animal that you can relax with.
Having a furry best friend can be a game changer as you battle cancer. Even when you feel at your worst, they will see you as your best.
Do you have an animal that supports you in your cancer journey? What do they mean to you?
New research shows furry friends support mental health in people with cancer – Cancer Council Victoria (cancervic.org.au)
New Research Shows Furry Friends Are Emotional Lifesavers During The Pandemic (forbes.com)