Dogs provide humans with a fluffy and adorable pal that offers loyal companionship. It’s no wonder that dogs are so popular, as many as 37% of households in the United States have a dog. Most dogs simply make their owners happier people. For people with disabilities or mental health conditions, dogs can provide an even greater value.
A service dog is canine that is specifically trained to assist people with disabilities such as visual impairments, hearing impairments, mental illnesses, epilepsy, and mobility impairments. The most common example of a service dog would be a seeing-eye dog, who helps guide blind people around safely. Dogs that make great service dogs possess a good temperament, friendly personality, and a strong physical presence. These traits are each natural to the animal, but other specialized training is done to prepare dogs for service.
For patients with certain mental health conditions, emotional support dogs have shown efficacy in easing symptoms.
What are Emotional Support Dogs
Dogs that serve to provide emotional support for people with a disabling mental illness or condition are called emotional support dogs. Technically, emotional support dogs are not considered service dogs as they do not require specialized training in order to provide emotional support. Though, emotional support dogs do require a basic training and a friendly and obedient temperament in order to aid the people they are prescribed to.
In order to be legally considered an emotional support dog, the dog needs to be prescribed by a licensed mental health professional to a patient. The mental health professional must conclude that the presence of the animal is required for the mental health of the patient.
Not unlike a seeing-eye dog or a guide dog, emotional support dogs are protected under federal law. Individuals with emotional support dogs are allowed to be accompanied by their canine anywhere they go including the cabin of airplanes and other places where dogs are typically not allowed.
Conditions Aided by Emotional Support Dogs
Emotional support dogs provide comfort to patients with a wide number of mental health conditions, including:
- Bipolar Disorder
- Mood Disorder
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Suicidal Thoughts/Tendencies
Emotional support dogs have a tremendous impact on people as they provide both physical and mental benefits for the people are paired with. Studies have shown that owning a pet can lower blood pressure, reduce stress, and lower heart rate. Emotional support dogs are most often used to combat anxiety, as being around dogs has been found to lower the amount of stress related hormones.
Emotional support dogs are becoming a more popular treatment method as they allow for a alternative to prescribing medications. Medication is a successful treatment method for a great number of patients suffering from a variety of medical conditions, but medications do have side effects. Dogs, on the other hand, don’t have side effects. Unless you count taking them for walks as a side effect.
How to get an Emotional Support Dog
Interested in getting an emotional support dog? If you believe you would benefit from having an emotional support dog by your side, the first step is to set up an appointment with a mental health professional to for a diagnosis. Once you have received a diagnosis and are under the treatment of a mental health professional, he/she will then have to fill out the appropriate paperwork for that will allow you to be accompanied by your emotional support dog in places you wouldn’t normally be allowed, such as a pet-free apartment complex or an airplane.
Depending on where you live, there may be services that provide emotional support dogs, but if not remember that any friendly and good-natured dog can provide aid and support. If you already have a dog, they can become your emotional support dog. In fact, current pets make the best emotional support dogs as you already have a bond with them.
Treating Anxiety, Depression & PTSD at Family Psychiatry and Therapy
If you symptoms of anxiety, depression, or PTSD are making your life difficult, seek help by visiting us at Family Psychiatry and Therapy. Our team of mental health professionals are ready to help you take back control of your life. After meeting with you, they will design a treatment plan that is best suited to bring your relief — whether through counseling or recommending that you get a emotional support dog.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment.