TIME

Can Puppies Help Fight Cancer? This New Study Aims to Find Out

Dog wearing nerd glasses
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Puppy love

Puppies can kill you with cuteness, but they may also be able to help cure you. At least that’s what a new study hopes to prove.

“Obviously, we know that the children like to see the dogs,” said Amy McCullough, American Humane Association’s national director of humane research and therapy, speaking to NBC. “But the folks in risk management want some clinical data.”

Finding that hard scientific proof is the goal of a new study by the American Humane Association (AHA) that aims to provide empirically-proven facts of what many anecdotally know to be true — puppy love can make you feel better.

The study, which advocates say may be the first official clinical trial on the effects of animal-assisted therapy on young cancer patients and their families, has backing from both Zoetis, a veterinary health firm, and the Pfizer Foundation.

For the study, researchers have designed a randomized, controlled trial in five children’s hospitals where they will follow 100 children (grab a tissue) between the ages of 3 and 12 years old, who are newly diagnosed with cancer. 50 of the kids will receive visits from trained therapy dogs, and 50 will receive standard treatment without puppy love to ease the blow.

The study will track blood pressure, heart rate and psychological responses in the kids, their families and the caregivers lucky enough to get to work with the therapy dogs. The study isn’t all about the kids, though. Researchers will also look at the effect on the dogs, measuring the level of the stress hormone cortisol in the animals’ saliva before and after visits spent cuddling children, which will probably show that when it comes to kids and dogs, the love goes both ways.

[Via NBC]

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