The Science Behind Animal-Assisted Therapy

Cancer Pain (DA Marcus, Section Editor)

DOI: 10.1007/s11916-013-0322-2

Cite this article as:
Marcus, D.A. Curr Pain Headache Rep (2013) 17: 322. doi:10.1007/s11916-013-0322-2
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Cancer Pain


Animal-assisted therapy is a complementary medicine intervention, typically utilizing dogs trained to be obedient, calm, and comforting. Several studies have reported significant pain relief after participating in therapy dog visits. Objective reports of reduced pain and pain-related symptoms are supported by studies measuring decreased catecholamines and increased endorphins in humans receiving friendly dog visits. Mirror neuron activity and disease-perception through olfactory ability in dogs may also play important roles in helping dogs connect with humans during therapeutic encounters. This review will explore a variety of possible theories that may explain the therapeutic benefits that occur during therapy dog visits.


Catecholamines Electronic nose Empathy Endorphin Mirror neurons Therapy dog 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnesthesiologyUniversity of Pittsburgh School of MedicinePittsburghUSA
  2. 2.Pain MedicinePittsburghUSA

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