Animal-assisted Therapy Study Readies For Pilot Trial

Posted: April 12, 2012, 5:30 p.m. EDT



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Pfizer Animal Health and the American Humane Association wrapped up a literature review and a series of focus groups and interviews as part of the first phase of a research study on the benefits of animal-assisted therapy on pediatric cancer patients, Pfizer Animal Health reported today.

The research study, titled “Canines and Childhood Cancer: Examining the Effects of Therapy Dogs with Childhood Cancer Patients and their Families,” is a multi-year project started in 2010 to examine the specific medical, behavioral and mental health benefits animal-assisted therapy may have for children with cancer and their families.

The initial phase of the study included a literature review and focus groups and interviews with hospital staff, family caregivers and animal-assisted therapy handlers. According to the results of the first phase, no standard protocol exists for animal-assisted therapy sessions (i.e., length, number and type of participants in each session, session activities, or talking points), lending credence to the need for the study, Pfizer said.

The information gathered in the initial phase will aid in designing future phases of the study, including a pilot trial and a full clinical trial. The pilot trial will include three to five pediatric oncology sites and will be followed by a clinical trial across multiple sites for 12 to 18 months.

Results from the study will be disseminated through professional conferences and peer-reviewed journals in disciplines including veterinary medicine, pediatric oncology, social work and animal-assisted therapy, Pfizer said.

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