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Therapy Dogs in Cancer Care

Therapy Dogs in Cancer Care

A Valuable Complementary Treatment

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Dogs that visit patients with cancer have been convincingly shown to reduce stress, loneliness, and mood disturbance that may complicate cancer care. In addition, dogs may provide important motivation for patients to maintain rehabilitation programs that have been shown to reduce cancer risk and improve cancer survival. Outlining all of these issues and many more, Therapy Dogs in Cancer Care: A Valuable Complementary Treatment is a ground-breaking, highly innovative addition to the literature on cancer care.  Detailing a comprehensive summary of truly impressive research demonstrating the ability of dogs to serve an important therapeutic role within the cancer arena and in other serious medical conditions, the text provides highly practical advice and very helpful “tips” to ensure that those who wish to employ dogs to assist the cancer patient have the necessary knowledge and “tools” to optimize outcomes.  Authored by Dawn A. Marcus, MD, an expert in both pain management and health improvement through human and dog interaction, Therapy Dogs in Cancer Care: A Valuable Complementary Treatment is an extremely well-organized, well-researched, and highly readable book.   Providing practical suggestions to effectively incorporate dogs into cancer care, with detailed instructions about requirements for therapy dogs to ensure visits are safe and limit unwanted spread of infection, Therapy Dogs in Cancer Care: A Valuable Complementary Treatment is an invaluable reference that will inform and delight both the clinician desiring a “how-to” text as well as the casual reader.  

1. Cancer overview
 a. Cancer statistics
 b. Modifiable cancer risk factors
 i. Physical activity
 c. Cancer-related symptoms
 i. Psychological distress
 1. Mood disorders
 2. Stress
 3. Isolation and loneliness
 4. Significance of stress and isolation on cancer progression
 ii. Fatigue
 iii. Pain
 1. Impact of cancer pain
 d. Complementary cancer treatment
 i. Therapy dogs in cancer care
 e. Summary

2. Introduction to therapy dogs
 a. Animal-assisted therapy vs animal-assisted activities
 i. Example of successful animal-assisted therapy for cancer patients
 b. Differentiating working dogs: therapy dog vs service dog
 c. Medical studies evaluating benefits from therapy dog visits
 i. Limitations with therapy dog studies
 ii. Patient benefits from therapy dog visits
 1. Mood enhancement
 2. Pain relief
 3. Loneliness reduction
 iii. Benefits for patient supporters and caregivers
 d. Physiological impact from dog visits
 i. Neurochemical changes
 ii. Immune markers
 iii. Stress response
 e. Ethics of dog therapy
 i. Physiological changes in dogs working as therapy dogs
 f. Summary

3. Dogs as cancer detectors
 a. Medical alert dogs
 i. Companion dogs alerting to cancer
 ii. Dogs trained to alert doctors to cancer
 b. Olfactory ability of dogs
 c. Explaining the physiology of cancer sniffing
 i. Volatile gas detection in lung cancer
 1. Detecting lung cancer using smellprints
 ii. Volatile gas detection in breast cancer
 iii. Volatile gas detection in skin cancer
 iv. Volatile gas detection in brain cancer
 d. Experimental studies testing cancer-detection abilities in dogs
 i. Lung and breast cancer
 ii. Bladder cancer iii. Prostate cancer
 iv. Colorectal cancer
 v. Ovarian cancer
 e. Summary

4. Dog therapy with cancer treatment
 a. Overview of therapy dog impact in cancer care
 i. Prospective research
 ii. Anecdotal reports
 b. Therapy dog visits when coping with a cancer diagnosis
 c. Therapy dog visits during inpatient care
 i. Therapy dogs for inpatient pediatric cancer treatment
 ii. Therapy dogs can make a home away from home
 d. Therapy dog visits before testing or treatment
 e. Therapy dog visits during chemotherapy
 f. Therapy dog visits during end-of-life and hospice care
 i. End-of-life support for secondary survivors
 g. Therapy dogs relieve staff stress
 i. Example of indirect patient benefits from changes in staff and patient visitors
 h. Summary

5. Adding therapy dogs to your cancer treatment team
 a. Establishing a therapy dog program
 i. Model oncology therapy dog program
 ii. Recommendations for making visits
 b. Identifying appropriate dogs
 i. Breed, size, and age requirements
 ii. Therapy dog sixth sense
 c. Guidelines for dog-handler teams
 d. Selecting appropriate patient candidates for visits
 e. Infection precautions with therapy dogs
 i. Human colonization with MRSA
 ii. Infection transmission between humans and pets
 iii. Minimizing spread of infection between dogs and humans
 iv. Visiting patients in intensive care or isolation
 f. Example of a typical therapy dog visit during cancer care
 g. Successful programs caring for cancer with therapy dogs
 i. Cancer Caring Center at the University of Pittsburgh
 ii. Pets at Duke
 iii. Angel Foundation's Kids Kamp
 h. Summary

6. Incorporating companion dogs into cancer rehab: emotional support
 a. Overview of companion dogs' role during cancer treatment
 b. Dogs relieve stress
 i. Cardiovascular reactivity decreases with companion dogs
 ii. Therapy dog visits reduce stress for patients and their caregivers
 c. Dogs can provide emotional and social support
 i. Cancer patients may feel emotionally isolated from human support network
 ii. Companion dogs as social capital
 iii. Companion dogs can provide unwavering support
 d. Summary

7. Incorporating companion dogs into cancer rehab: benefits from physical exercise for cancer patients
 a. Quantifying exercise level
 b. Prevention benefits from exercise
 c. Benefits of physical exercise after a cancer diagnosis
 i. Reduced symptoms
 1. Fatigue
 ii. Improved quality of life
 iii. Improved survival
 d. Feasibility
 i. Lymphedema after breast cancer surgery with axillary node dissection
 e. Walking for cancer patients
 i. Walking exercise reduces symptoms
 ii. Walking exercise improves survival
 iii. Prescribing a walking program during cancer recovery
 1. Dog walking improves exercise adherence
 2. Healthy hydration
 f. Summary

8. Incorporating companion dogs into cancer rehab: dog-themed exercise program for cancer patients
 a. Exercise prescription for cancer patients
 b. Why include a companion dog in an exercise program?
 c. Dog-themed exercise program designed for cancer patients and survivors
 i. Stretching exercises
 1. Upper body leash exercises
 2. Lower body leash exercises
 3. Neck stretching
 4. Back stretches
 5. Exercise with dog toys
 ii. Balance exercises
 iii. Strengthening exercises
 iv. Exercises for lymphedema
 v. Aerobic exercise
 d. Summary

9. Incorporating companion dogs into cancer rehab: practical tips for adding a dog into the home  during cancer treatment and recovery
 a. Considerations before adding a companion dog
 b. Choosing an appropriate dog
 c. Taking advantage of dog-related benefits when adding a companion dog is not appropriate
 d. Expectations for therapeutic benefits
 e. Summary

10. Resources
 a. Internet resources
 i. Therapy dog organizations
 ii. American Kennel Club therapy dog certification
 iii. Service dog organizations
 b. Exercise instructions for cancer patients
 c. Books
 i. Complementary medicine during cancer care
 ii. Therapy dog books
 1. Therapy dog training books
 2. Therapy dog books for children
 iii. Healing power of companion pets
 1. Books for adding a companion dog into the home
 iv. Exercising with your dog


Dawn A. Marcus, MD

University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA


From the reviews:

“Begins with an excellent overview of how complementary therapies can help relieve cancer-related symptoms … and goes on to detail how physical activity can reduce the risk of developing and then relapsing from certain cancers. … this is a highly accessible and informative book, which is recommended for both oncology specialists and cancer patients.” (Heidi Sowter, Oncology News, Vol. 8 (3), July-August, 2013)

“An excellent resource on the use of therapy dogs as complementary treatment for cancer patients of all ages. … The book is intended for … nurses, social workers, child life specialists, patients and their family members, physical therapists, and other caregivers. This book would be beneficial for those involved in the care of patients with any serious disease modality. … should be part of the toolkit for physicians caring not only for cancer patients, but also for any patients with serious medical or psychological conditions.” (Julia D. Grimes, Doody’s Book Reviews, November, 2012)
Vereinigte Staaten
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193 Seiten
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