Dogs are part of a project that helps children with brain tumors

The 12 de Octubre Hospital has started a new dog-assisted intervention program for children with brain tumors. This project, called 'Blanca's Treasure', is a collaboration between the hospital, the Yaracán entity and the Royal Canin Foundation, which aims to promote the stimulation and rehabilitate your brain.

Every Thursday, the Pediatric Oncology hospitalization ward is filled for 3 hours with friendly canines that accompany boys and girls suffering from brain tumors.

This initiative of the 12 de Octubre Hospital provides outpatient support to children in the Neuropsychology clinic of the Pediatric Service who suffer from brain tumors.

Since the treatment is having very good results, they have decided to extend it for two more years from now on.

'Blanca's treasure'

The name of the initiative pays tribute to an oncology patient who recovered thanks to her family dog ​​and gave them the idea of ​​transferring this therapy to the rest of the children in the hospital who suffer from brain tumors.

This is the second project of assisted intervention with dogs developed by the 12 de Octubre Hospital together with the Yaracán animal-assisted therapy specialists.

With this project they present a double objective:

• Generate a bond of trust between child and dog, which helps patients and their families divert their attention from the disease.

• A change in role that allows children who suffer from brain tumors to become caregivers and guides for the dogs.

For this pioneering program, the Yaracán team has up to eight intervention dogs, coordinated by a psychologist from the same association and from the Neuropsychology consultation on October 12.

“We often took off our robes and even put on street clothes to make it closer, but we couldn't do it. However, what was seen is that it is achieved with dogs. The truth is the dog transmits a feeling of well-being which makes the child forget that he is admitted at that moment and that he has an illness. It is important that the child thinks about enjoying the dog because it helps the rest of us who work with children to be able to intervene and advance this process of brain recovery,” explains Dr. Berta Zamora, doctor at the pediatric neuropsychology clinic at the October 12 Hospital.

The patients in question: children with brain tumors

The promoters of this initiative explain that cognitive sequelae in children with brain tumors are quite common, not only as a consequence of the disease, but also due to the treatments they receive.

The diagnosis itself has a very great impact on the patient's life, on their behavior, school performance and their relationship with their family and friends.

Therefore, assisted intervention with dogs represents a great contribution and help, since through encouragement and motivation that animals cause, changes are favored in the emotional, cognitive, psychomotor, social and communicative areas.

A child with brain damage has, on the one hand, a brain that is a target organ for this type of injury but also has great brain plasticity. If we can intervene as soon as possible, even in a hospital setting, the recovery has already been seen to be much better,” says Dr. Berta Zamora.

Furthermore, this interaction generates a state of well-being that facilitates cognitive assessments and the implementation of rehabilitation strategies. It also favors multidisciplinary work between different specialists.

A pioneering proposal that began in 2019

Dog therapy has been done on October 12 in three different projects to date.

In 2019, the first initiative was carried out with pediatric patients in intensive care at Hospital 12 de Octubre. This project called 'Colorful Footprints' was carried out in collaboration with the Chair of Animals and Society of the Rey Juan Carlos University.

This program, which began as a research project, demonstrated that animal-assisted interventions They significantly reduce pain, fear and anxiety in hospitalized children.

The study, called 'Feasibility of the application of animal-assisted therapy in a pediatric intensive care unit: effectiveness in reducing pain, fear and anxiety' showed that minors in critical situations experienced a decrease in pain up to three points, as well as a reduction in anxiety level thanks to dog therapy.

In 2020, another project was launched: '4 legs of support', which marked Yaracán's first collaboration with the 12 de Octubre Hospital. This focused on stimulating, motivating and emotionally activating children between two and 12 years of age diagnosed with inborn errors of metabolism and children with cytomegalovirus. The results of this were so positive that they have motivated the launch of 'Blanca's Treasure'.

The third and current project is 'Blanca's treasure'which seems to follow the line of the previous ones in terms of the effectiveness that canine therapies show in pediatric patients.

(With information from EFE)