Posted on

How to Get a Service Dog for Anxiety

All human beings deal with anxiety to some degree. It’s how we’re wired. Anxiety, for some people, creates a negative impact on life. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), anxiety disorders affect over 40 million adults in the U.S. A growing number of people with anxiety disorders get help from emotional support animals. Also called an ESA, a support animal may be a dog, cat, or even a miniature horse. Learn how you can find a service dog or cat to help with anxiety.

Request a Prescription

Talking with your mental healthcare provider about your anxiety and the possibility of using an emotional support animal as part of your treatment. First, a therapist can help you get the most out of your service animal. Second, they can write a letter for you. While it’s not like a prescription you take to the pharmacy, an emotional support animal letter is your proof that your ESA is a necessary part of your daily life.

Adopt a Service Dog

If you already own a dog, great! Most of your work is already done. If not, you’ll want to find the perfect support pet for your unique needs. As mentioned above, support animals come in many forms, but the majority of people with anxiety get a dog. One of the best ways you can get a service dog is through adoption. Since emotional support animals don’t need to go through certification, and they don’t need to be a certain breed, you’ll find dogs in every animal shelter or rescue organization in the country who would love to be a part of your life. The only qualification is that the dog makes you feel secure and comforts you, especially when you experience symptoms of anxiety.

Training Your ESA

Once you bring your dog home, it’s training time! Not only do you need your dog to learn how best to help you, but it’s also essential for your dog to learn how to be a good citizen. That means training them not to jump on people or lunge at other animals. You want your dog to respond to you and obey your commands. By training, we’re talking about obedience and not being a nuisance when you take the dog out in public. If you and your dog can master sit, stay, down, and heel, you’ll both be welcome just about anywhere you want to go.

Register Your Support Dog

Unlike a certified service animal, you don’t have a legal requirement to register your support pet. Even so, you’ll enjoy several benefits when you register a dog for emotional support. ESA dog registration includes paperwork, which identifies your dog as a support animal. Paperwork is always a plus when you travel with your dog, apply for housing, or take your dog into places where only service dogs are allowed. You can also get a vest for your registered ESA, which is another way to show people your dog is on the official mission of caring for you. Don’t wait to get registered! For questions about ESA registration, contact National Service Animal Registry today at (866) 737-3930.

Posted on

Does Your Service Dog Have Diabetes?

Over the last 10 years, there has been a massive increase in canine diabetes. In animals, just as in humans, it is a growing epidemic. It’s vitally important that Service Dog owners recognize the symptoms of diabetes because caught early it can be controlled and dogs can live a full life. On the other hand, left untreated diabetes can have long-term consequences and can even be fatal.

The aim of this article is to provide all the information you need to recognize the symptoms of diabetes, plus information about causes and treatment options.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a metabolic disorder that occurs when the pancreas either stops producing insulin, doesn’t produce enough, or the body doesn’t respond to it correctly.

Insulin acts as a “gatekeeper” in muscle, fat and liver cells, by enabling these cells to absorb glucose from the bloodstream. Service dogs, like all dogs and cats, need glucose for energy in the same way that humans do.

Insulin also helps the liver to store excess glucose. When too much sugar is present in the system insulin signals the liver to stop releasing it into the bloodstream.

If your Service Dog doesn’t have enough insulin in its system, there are two consequences. Firstly, the cells can’t absorb glucose so excessive sugar levels will build up in the bloodstream. High levels of glucose act like a poison and can cause damage to the eyes, heart, kidneys, muscles, and nerves.

Secondly, insulin is the gatekeeper that signals to the organs and muscles that they should absorb glucose to use for energy. Without it, the organs and muscles don’t get the fuel they need and start to break down protein and fats to use as fuel instead.

Type I and Type II Diabetes

The two main types of diabetes are Type I and Type II.

Type I Diabetes is also called Insulin-Deficient Diabetes. This is the most common form of diabetes in dogs. In Type I Diabetes the pancreas is damaged and doesn’t produce any insulin.

Type II Diabetes is also called Insulin-Resistant Diabetes. It is possible for your service dog to suffer from Type II Diabetes, but it is rare. In Type II Diabetes, the pancreas produces some insulin but not enough, and the body doesn’t use it as it should. This normally occurs in older, obese dogs. Sometimes female dogs get Type II Diabetes when they are on heat or pregnant.

What causes diabetes?

Obesity: Dogs are more likely to suffer from diabetes if they are obese (a good reason to help your service dog maintain a good weight). Obesity causes insulin resistance and leads to pancreatitis. Pancreatitis often causes damage to the pancreas which results in it no longer being able to produce insulin.

Steroids:Long-term use of steroids for the treatment of other disorders can lead to diabetes.

Other diseases:Cushing’s Disease causes overproduction of steroids in the body which can cause diabetes. Dogs that suffer from other autoimmune and viral diseases can also be more prone to diabetes.

Genetics: It doesn’t matter that your service dog is a mixed breed; Mixed breeds are just as likely to get diabetes as pure-breeds. Certain breeds of dogs are more prone to diabetes than others, such as Miniature PoodlesBichons FrisesPugsDachshundsMiniature SchnauzersPuli, Samoyeds, Keeshonds, Australian Terriers, Fox Terriers, Cairn Terriers, and Beagles.

Female dogs and older dogs (5+ years) are also more likely to suffer from diabetes.

How do I know if my service dog has diabetes?

The four classic signs of diabetes are increased frequency of urination, excessive thirst and hunger, and weight loss.

Increased urination: A dog suffering from diabetes will urinate more frequently because a lack of insulin means glucose in the bloodstream is not converted into energy. As glucose builds up, the body will try to get rid of the excess of sugar by urinating more frequently and in more volume. Your Service Dog might also have accidents in the house.

Excessive thirst: Increased urination leads to dehydration so a dog with diabetes often appears to be thirsty all the time.

Increased hunger: Dogs with diabetes often feel constantly hungry. As glucose failes to get to the brain, the brain sends out a signal that the body is starving, so your service dog keeps eating to try to get the nutrients it needs.

Dramatic weight loss:As there is no insulin present to signal to the cells they need to absorb glucose for energy, the body does not get the fuel it needs. This often causes dramatic weight loss.

If your service dog is displaying any of the following symptoms, they might have advanced diabetes.

Extreme lack of energy and/or loss of appetite: If your service dog seems to have less energy than they used to, starts sleeping excessively or loses interest in food, it might be a sign of advanced diabetes. This is caused by the cells not getting the fuel they need from glucose absorption.

Depression:Dogs with diabetes often appear to be depressed. This is caused by too many ketones in the body due to insulin deficiency.

Vomiting:Older dogs are prone to vomiting in the advanced stages of diabetes, as are females, dachshunds, and miniature poodles.

How is diabetes diagnosed?

If your Service Dog displays symptoms of diabetes, ask your Veterinarian to do blood and urine tests.

Elevated levels of glucose in the blood is a sign of diabetes, but it can also be a sign of stress, so if you are in doubt ask for further tests.

Blood tests can show other indications that your service dog may have diabetes, such as high liver enzymes and electrolyte imbalances. The sooner diabetes is diagnosed, the more chance there is that treatment will be effective, and your dog will be able to live a normal life.

How is canine diabetes treated?

Diabetes cannot be cured, but it can be treated effectively, particularly if it is caught early.

The aim of the treatment is to normalize sugar levels. Treatment usually involves a combination of insulin injections, diet, and exercise. Your Veterinarian will make a personalized plan for your service dog, taking into account his glucose levels, weight, general health, and exercise habits.

Most dogs with diabetes will need to be injected with insulin twice a day after meals. Your Veterinarian will choose which form of insulin is most suitable for him. It can take a few months to get the dose of insulin right, so you may need to take him for weekly checkups until his insulin level is normalized. Injections must be given at the same time every day. Don’t be surprised if your vet requires your service dog to have the glucose level in their blood to be measured every day using a pinprick test.

If you are consistent with the injections, monitoring, and check-ups, your Service Dog should be able to live a healthy life and is less likely to suffer from complications. Remember, if you go away and leave your dog in the care of other people, it is vital they are also confident following the treatment plan.

You might feel worried at first about giving injections but you’ll soon find it a very quick and easy process. Your Veterinarian will give you precise instructions on how to administer the injections including how to check you have the correct concentration of insulin in the syringe. Your service dog will not feel any pain. Insulin doesn’t hurt, the needles are small and injections are given under skin so they can’t damage any organs.

Obesity

If your Service Dog is obese, your Veterinarian will advise you how to get his weight under control through diet and exercise. Be prepared that this might take a few months. It is essential to get your service dog’s weight to a normal level as it is very difficult to treat dogs with diabetes if they are overweight.

Monitoring

In order to keep track of your Service Dog’s health, it’s a good idea to keep a chart with daily glucose levels, insulin dose, diet, and weekly weight so patterns can be checked and treatment adjusted as necessary.

Hospitalization

It may be necessary to hospitalize your Service Dog at first for tests and treatment. After this, he will be able to go home and you can take over his care.

If your Service Dog already has advanced diabetes and has stopped eating and drinking for several days, he might require longer hospitalization with intensive medical treatment.

How much does treatment for diabetes cost?

The cost of treatment will vary according to your Veterinarian and the health of your dog. Initially, you will need to pay for regular checkups and possibly hospitalization. Once the glucose levels are normalized, the cost of insulin, needles, and diet are not high.

The cost of treating a dog in the advanced stages of diabetes is much higher, however, so it’s important to get treatment as early as possible and be consistent with injections and monitoring.

What is the best diet for a dog with diabetes?

If your Service Dog is diagnosed with diabetes, your Veterinarian will advise you about the best diet. It’s important not to change his food suddenly without proper advice.

Both the type and amount of food your dog eats will have to be regulated. Normally, diabetic dogs are put on a diet that is low in fat and high in protein, complex carbohydrates, and fiber. These foods are lower in sugar and slow the absorption of glucose which means your Service Dog will not have to cope with large amounts of glucose at one time.

Giving your Service Dog a balanced diet will help regulate his glucose levels. Never give your dog treats meant for humans as these can be dangerously high in sugar.

Feed him twice a day just before his insulin injections. If you are used to leaving food out for your dog to eat when he’s hungry, you are likely to need to change this habit. It’s much more difficult with “free feeding” to accurately measure the amount of food your dog is consuming.

As well as a balanced diet, moderate and consistent exercise is vital for maintaining blood sugar levels.

What if my Service Dog doesn’t get better?

Sometimes it takes a while to find the correct dose of insulin for a dog with diabetes. Regular checkups with your Veterinarian are vital and you may need to check your dog’s glucose levels at home.

If his appetite suddenly increases or he seems thirstier than usual, contact your Veterinarian immediately. If your Service Dog suddenly gets very lethargic or groggy it could be a sign that his blood-sugar levels are dangerous.

Complications of diabetes

Dogs with diabetes are prone to complications. These include Urinary Tract Infections because of the high levels of sugar in the urine. In addition, it is very important for dogs with diabetes to have their teeth cleaned regularly as oral infections can cause increases in blood sugar.

If your Service Dog has diabetes, he is also more likely to get cataracts. Dogs often cope well with reduced sight because their hearing and sense of smell are so acute.

There are other complications of diabetes particularly involving the liver and kidneys, and dogs with diabetes are also prone to seizures.

One of the most serious complications of diabetes is Ketoacidosis which is caused by the liver breaking down fat into ketones. This is often caused by a combination of low insulin levels and another infection, surgery, or stress.

Ketoacidosis is potentially life-threatening. Symptoms include sweet breath, panting, dehydration, lethargy, vomiting. As part of your management plan, your Veterinarian may give you ketone measuring sticks so you can monitor the level of ketones and catch an increase before it becomes a problem. If your dog shows increased levels, or displays any of the symptoms mentioned above, consult with your Veterinarian immediately.

Final words

Diabetes is a very serious disease and shouldn’t be underestimated. If your Service Dog displays any of the symptoms mentioned above, it is vital you consult your Veterinarian immediately. If caught early, treatment can be very effective, and your dog will be able to live a full life. Left untreated, however, it can lead to many other health issues.

Posted on

How To Say Goodbye

None of us want to think about what will happen when our service dog gets old or sick. We depend on them for so many things; perhaps most importantly, for companionship. We don’t want to imagine what our lives would be like without them, or that we might have to make a difficult decision when they reach the end of their life.

Naturally, we’d prefer for our service dogs to pass peacefully in their sleep, but more often than not there comes a point where we have to think about euthanasia. Having an animal in our lives is a privilege, and with that privilege comes responsibility. Making the decision to put our pets to sleep is often the kindest thing to do in the end.

The aim of this article is to provide you with all the information you need so you know what to expect when the time comes. Saying goodbye to your best friend is never going to be easy, but being well informed about the process will hopefully make the journey smoother for you and help you prepare for the decisions you will need to make.

How to know when the time is right

One of the hardest things about euthanasia is the fact that, ultimately, we have to make the final decision. This can be particularly difficult for older service dogs who have deteriorated gradually.

How do we decide when it’s the right time? What if we make the decision too early? How can we know that today is the right day? Are they so much worse than they were yesterday? How do we know how they will be tomorrow?

It’s very important to remember that you don’t have to make this decision on your own. Your vet, who is objective and less emotionally involved, will be able to advise you, so make sure you ask for their help and guidance. Ask as many questions as you need to in order to make the decision. You might also be able to get support and advice from friends and family, particularly if they have been through this too.

It might help you to come to terms with the decision if you look at photographs or videos of your when they were younger. If you see how much they have changed and are struggling now in comparison, it might make you realize that the time is right.

Assessing your service dog’s quality of life

In the end, making a decision about pet euthanasia often comes down to their quality of life. If you have had a close relationship with your service dog, you will not want them to suffer. You want them to die with dignity, free of pain. Your vet will be able to help you assess their quality of life. It might help for you to consider these questions.

  • Is your service dog suffering from chronic pain that can’t be controlled by medication?
  • Is he experiencing frequent vomiting? Is he continent?
  • Does he find it difficult to breathe?
  • Is he taking in enough water? Is he able to drink independently?
  • Is he eating voluntarily? Is he interested in food?
  • Is his coat healthy? Are all pressure spots and wounds clean?
  • Does he still want to do the things he has always enjoyed? Is he keen to go for a walk? Does he respond to his favorite people? Is he interested in his favorite toys?
  • Is he able to stand and walk on his own?

If you are responding negatively to many of these questions, it’s time to get your vet’s opinion about the right course of action for your animal.

How to prepare

Once the decision to go ahead with euthanasia is made, you may find it difficult to hand over all control to the vet. You might experience feelings of powerless, which can be hard to deal with. It might help if you focus on the parts you can control, such as where the procedure will take place and how you can make it as comfortable as you can for your dog or cat.

It might also help to make a plan for what will happen afterward. Organizing a memorial for our pets can help us process grief, just like it does when we organize a person’s funeral. It’s also a good idea to make these arrangements in advance to take the pressure off the period immediately after the procedure, when you might not be up to it.

Anticipate the fact that organizing payment following the procedure might not be easy for you emotionally, so ask your vet in advance how much it will cost and how you will pay. It might be possible to settle the bill beforehand, so you don’t have to think about it afterward.

What will happen

Although you may not feel like hearing all the details, getting as much information as you can from your vet about the options will help you make an informed decision on behalf of your beloved animal and to prepare yourself.

Sometimes, it’s possible for the vet to come to your home to carry out the procedure. If you think this would be easier for you, ask the vet if it’s an option. On the other hand, you may prefer to personally take your pet to the vet’s office or animal hospital and remain with him or her, while others choose to say goodbyes and not be present for the procedure. Remember, everyone copes differently, and there is no shame in leaving the final act to the vet.

The procedure

If you are planning to be present at the end, it’s a good idea to know what to expect so you are prepared. The procedure will vary according to the vet and the animal, so ask for it to be explained to you beforehand. Ask all the questions you need to; nothing is too trivial. This is will help you prepare.

Normally, pets are put to sleep by an overdose of anesthetic. In larger animals, such as dogs and cats, this is injected into a vein; in smaller animals, it is normally injected into the abdomen following sedation.

Vets sometimes sedate larger animals too but may opt not to do so, as this can make the animals sick. It can also make it harder for the vet to find a vein and carry out the procedure smoothly.

Remember, even if they are not sedated, all your service dog will feel is the prick of the needle. The whole thing will be over very quickly, as the anesthetic reaches the heart in seconds.

For smaller animals, the procedure is likely to take place on a table, and for larger ones it might be carried out on the floor. The vet will have to hold the animal in a certain way, so he/she is likely to tell you where you can stand (or sit) so your animal can hear your voice and feel your presence while giving your vet the room he/she needs.

Sometimes animals have a reaction after death that can be upsetting if you’re not expecting it. Some might gasp or make a noise; they might twitch or empty their bowels. Remember, your service dog and is unaware of this; it is it completely normal.

What happens next?

Don’t worry if you feel upset and cry or find it hard to control your emotions. Your vet will have performed this procedure many times and will have seen a wide range of reactions. You may surprise yourself by being calm, especially if you are well prepared. You might also feel some relief on behalf of your service dog, if they have been suffering. People react in very different ways, and each one is perfectly natural.

If the procedure takes place at the vet’s office, you will be given time afterward to say goodbye to your service dog. You will have decided beforehand if your vet is going to organize a cremation,,if you prefer to do this for yourself.

If your pet didn’t have an infectious disease, you can opt to take him or her home with you. If you wish the arrange a burial or cremation at a pet cemetery the international association of pet cemeteries and crematories will be able to direct you to one in your area. If you wish to bury him yourself or scatter his ashes, you’ll want to check with the local authority to see if there are any restrictions.

How to cope with grief following the loss of your beloved animal

No one who has had a strong bond with a pet will be surprised to hear that losing a beloved animal can be as difficult as losing a person you are close to. Some people feel quite isolated, lonely, and even depressed when they lose their service dog. It can be difficult to express your feelings, particularly if you think the people around you don’t understand.

If you have friends and family who have been through it, reach out to them for help. It helps to talk to someone who has been there, and it’s important that you don’t bottle up your grief. If you don’t have sympathetic people close to you, try to find a support network. Ask your doctor about local support and counseling. It’s important that you find someone you can talk to.

Sometimes the fact that you had to make the final decision can weigh heavily on you. You might experience feelings of guilt and self-doubt. Remember, you made the decision in consultation with your vet, and you were doing what was best for your service dog by relieving them of their pain and letting them pass with dignity.

Sometimes it helps to create a memorial for your pet. Some people have a portrait painted, or make a scrapbook of photos and memories. You might like to think about having a stone in your garden or planting a tree. Some people like to donate to an animal charity. If you’re struggling to come to terms with the passing of your pet, you may consider writing down your feelings in a journal. Sometimes expressing feelings on paper helps you to come to terms with them.

When is it time to get a new service dog?

Some of us need a service dog in order to be able to carry out the functions of our everyday life. If this is the case for you, however difficult it sounds, it’s a good idea to start making arrangements to find another animal to love – and don’t feel guilty about it. You will have great memories of your old friend, but that doesn’t stop you from making new memories, or new friends.

If your needs are not immediate, take your time and don’t put yourself under pressure to make a decision. Ultimately, you need to think about your quality of life and how much you benefit from having a service dog.

Final words

Saying goodbye to a service dog can be extremely difficult, particularly if we have to make the decision to put them to sleep. When they reach a point where they do not have a good quality of life and they are having more bad days than good, we need to take a step back and think about what is best for them.

The strong feelings you might experience in the period after they have gone are nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, they are a testament to the special bond you shared with your pet.

Although you might be in pain now, know that you will recover. You have done the best thing for your service dog and you will always have those very special memories.

Posted on

Understanding the Positive Effects of Emotional Support Animals

The average person who deals with depression, anxiety, or other health conditions does it on their own. Sure, they have health care providers and maybe a therapist, but for the most part, they have limited support. Friends and family get busy. Doctors and therapists are only available during regular office hours. An animal, on the other hand, doesn’t have a schedule and is always at your side. If you already have a cuddly pet, you know how important they are to your well-being. An emotional support animal (ESA) can change your life! Today’s post covers the impact ESAs have on their owner’s lives. Learn about the positive things you could experience with an ESA support dog by your side.

A New Look on Life

If you suffer from depression, you know it’s more than feeling tired or not up to par a few days a week. Depression takes over and moves in for the long-haul. Most people who deal with depression experience a range of symptoms, but one common thread is a loss of hope. It’s difficult to plod through daily life without hope for the future. People without hope often have trouble caring for themselves and others. Spending time with a pet, especially one with a wagging tail and soulful eyes, can alleviate the symptoms of depression. As your mood lifts, you’ll feel hopeful again. While not a substitute for medication prescribed by your doctor, you could think of an ESA as a component of your treatment program.

Help for Anxiety

There’s a reason why so many people bring their ESA when they travel, especially on airplanes. It’s not uncommon for people to get anxious when they fly. For some, the anxiety is paralyzing and, in extreme cases, prevents the person from traveling by plane, which can put a damper on seeing the world. Traveling with an ESA may help alleviate some of the anxiety. While taking anti-anxiety medication may work, an ESA offers a different kind of relief. When you focus on your dog, instead of the fear of airplanes, you’ll usually relax and even enjoy your travel experience. By the way, simply petting your ESA can relieve anxiety, whether you’re on a plane, or sitting in your living room.

They Love You Back

The joy of owning a pet is the unconditional love they give, no matter what. An ESA doesn’t care if you’re feeling out of sorts. They love you anyway! There’s nothing like the unconditional love of an animal, but it’s especially helpful to a person with emotional health issues. It’s not uncommon for a person who has a mental health condition to feel unlovable. At the least, they may not feel like being around people. Your ESA will stay by your side, loving you right through the dark moments.

An Integral Part of Treatment

While they’re not a substitute for medical or mental health care, ESAs work as part of your overall treatment. Whether you exercise or practice mindfulness, you can incorporate time with your ESA into your treatment methods. When you need to ground yourself, you can focus on your animal. If you use exercise, your ESA can help motivate you to walk or run every day. Since they’re an essential part of treatment, you should consider ESA dog registration. Registering your ESA opens up a world of benefits, including the ability to show people that your animal is a legitimate support animal. For help with registration, contact National Service Animal Registry at (866) 737-3930 today!

Posted on

What Disabilities Qualify You for a Service Dog?

For those who live with disabilities, a service animal can be more than just a companion. A service animal is a specially trained assistant that can help a person accomplish a specific task that would otherwise be difficult or impossible because of their disability. While the tasks for which service animals are trained vary widely from person to person based on condition, the rights of those who rely on service animals are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Acts. A service dog registry can provide additional credentials for those who use service animals to accomplish daily tasks, but the rights of service dog users are protected nonetheless by the law of the land.

Whether you have your animal listed on the service dog registry or not, there are some clear-cut qualifications that a person with disabilities must meet for their animals to be considered true service animals, thus qualifying them for access and protection of their rights. Read on to learn more about which types of disabilities may qualify you for a service animal.

Physical Disability Definition

A disability is defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act as any physiological condition or disfigurement of a cosmetic or physiological nature that includes neurological, musculoskeletal, sensory, respiratory, cardiovascular, reproductive, digestive, genitourinary, hemic, lymphatic, skin, or endocrine systems and organs.

Physical Disabilities and Service Dogs

There are many specific conditions that lead to disabilities that could qualify people for service dog usage. Those physical conditions include, but aren’t limited to, blindness or deafness, epilepsy, paralysis from any cause, allergies, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, osteoporosis, scoliosis, asthma, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, loss of limb, and seizures.

Mental Disability Definition

The Americans with Disabilities Act defines mental disability as any mental or psychological disorder that causes mental distress such as traumatic brain injury, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and some learning disabilities.

Mental Disabilities and Service Dogs

While mental disabilities may not be as easy to observe by members of the public, those who suffer from those conditions can sometimes be aided by highly trained service dogs. Those mental disabilities that qualify for service dog assistance include, but aren’t limited to, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, depression, mood disorders, neurocognitive disorders, psychotic disorders, autism, and addiction disorders.

How Service Dogs Help

Service dogs can be trained to perform many tasks that are tailored to assist with the disabilities of their handlers. For example, service dogs can help those with physical disabilities such as sensory conditions by leading their handlers around in crowded places and alerting them to dangers. Some dogs assist their handlers with mobility by providing stability during walking or pulling wheelchairs. Other service animals are trained to provide medication reminders or sense when there’s a dangerous situation on the horizon, such as diabetic experiences plummeting blood sugar. Some dogs are even trained to dial 911 in an emergency or hail other family members to request help for a fallen owner. For those with mental disabilities, service dogs can help handlers recognize the oncoming signs of depression, for example, and distract them from triggering events. Other service dogs are trained to place their weight on their handlers as a form of deep pressure therapy that can stop an anxiety attack in its tracks. For those who suffer from PTSD, specially trained service dogs can insulate them in large crowds and help maintain space that would otherwise lead PTSD survivors to feel emotionally suffocated.

For those who live with disabilities, whether mental or physical, service dogs can provide needed assistance that can help restore function and feelings of normalcy. People who live with the conditions mentioned above can benefit from the assistance of a service dog. To learn more about what disabilities may qualify you for a service dog, contact the National Service Animal Registry at (866) 737-3930.

Posted on

Feeding Your Service Dog Less May Lead to a Longer Life

Most people love their pets, but for the disabled, a service dog isn’t just a beloved friend. They are an essential part of their lives, and vital to their independence. Service dogs are employed around the world to help guide the blind, alert deaf to important sounds such as doorbells or phones, and to alert to a wide range of medical conditions.

It can cost between $20,000-$60,000 to properly train a service dog and replacing them when they become too old to work or pass away is both heart wrenching and difficult. Both the handler and the dog must learn to work with a new person, and there’s no guarantee that the match will work.

Between the expense and the level of effort it takes to transfer to a new service dog, it makes sense to keep a beloved friend in service for as long as possible. The good news is, keeping your dog in good weight can not only extend his life, but make those years higher quality as well.

Weight gain is a growing problem for dogs

In the United States alone, 54% of dogs are overweight or obese. A 2014 study conducted by Banfield pet hospitals found that overweight dogs live shorter lives than those who are a healthy weight. The difference in lifespan came to about 2 ? years.

Overweight dogs are also prone to a number of chronic diseases such as diabetes, arthritis, and even ACL tears. These problems may shorten your pets lifespan, but critically for service dogs, could bring an end to their career.

If they ever have to undergo surgery, they are also more at risk because overweight dogs have to work harder to breathe and may take longer to wake up after anesthesia.

Feeding less is the best choice

Weight loss happens when a dog takes in fewer calories than it burns. While you can increase exercise in the hopes of helping your pet burn calories, the reality is your service dog probably already gets plenty of exercise every day as he performs the tasks required of him.

The saying goes, “You can’t outrun a bad diet,” and is meant as advice for runners who hope to lose weight through adopting running as an exercise routine. The same is true for dogs. Although exercise can help burn more calories, your service dog’s diet is where we truly need to look in order to help him lose weight. There are several methods you can use to help him lose weight, including:

Stop free feeding

Some people choose to keep unlimited amounts of food available for their dog. The theory being that a full dog won’t beg, and that they won’t overeat if they know there is always more food available. Dogs are opportunistic feeders however, and tend to eat more than they should, especially if it is readily available to snack on at a moment’s notice.

Instead, carefully read the instructions on your dog’s food, and follow the guidelines. These guidelines are different from brand to brand, and even between lines of the same brand.

Follow package instructions carefully

Different brands of dog food have different calorie amounts. A cup of food for one brand could have a vastly different calorie count than a cup from a different brand, even though it is the same volume. Read the package carefully, and double check that you are following instructions properly. Some people read the daily intake suggestion and think 1 cup per meal for example, and it is actually 1 cup per day.

If you want to feed multiple meals per day, split the daily value total into portions, rather than accidentally doubling or tripling the amount of dog food your pet receives with multiple meals of his daily value.

Get a body scale done on your dog

Most vets are happy to perform a body scale assessment on your dog, so that you know how far you need to go. They will give you a number between 1-5, with 1 being completely emaciated and 5 being morbidly obese. A body scale can let you know your dog’s condition and help guide you towards a healthy weight.

Include treats in overall feed amount

Many people forget that the treats and chews they offer their pet throughout the day also have calories. When feeding your service dogs his main meal, it’s important to subtract the amount of treats you have given from the total amount of kibble for the day.

Treats can add up to a surprising number of calories if you give them frequently, so if you love giving your service dog a few extras when it is off duty, this may be the culprit to his expanding waistline.

Feed less

If you have been carefully measuring your dog’s food, either by weighing it or by following the package instructions and your dog has not lost weight, it’s time to cut the amount of dog food. The measurements on the back of your dog food are simply guidelines, and they don’t always accurately reflect your dog’s needs.

Age, level of activity, and chronic diseases such as thyroid problems can slow down your dogs metabolism and make him need less than the recommended amount. If you see no change in his weight after reducing his food, it’s time to cut how much is getting in his bowl.

How much to cut your dog’s food

If you always measure your dog’s food and follow the guidelines on the back of the bag, you may be wondering where to go from there. Your dog food may suggest different measurements depending on energy requirements, but a good rule of thumb is to reduce the food you are giving your dog by 5% and then wait a few weeks to see how effective that is.

The delay between food reductions gives your service dog a chance to get used to the smaller amount of food, as well as time to lose weight. If he hasn’t lost enough weight after a few weeks, you can reduce the amount again. If you find yourself feeding less than 75% of the daily recommended amount, it may be time to switch to a lower calorie food instead.

Feeding your dog the correct amount of dog food can be tricky. The weight ranges on dog food labels can be huge and make it hard for you to guess what the appropriate amount is. Many labels also fail to meet standard calculations.

Your service dog will probably need to be on a diet for somewhere between 6-8 months in order to achieve a healthy body weight. Even just five pounds could take over a month as your dog gradually loses the weight.

Even if your dog has a lot of weight to lose, it’s important not to rush your dog’s weight loss. Rapid weight loss can have problems of its own, such as nutritional deficiencies, or even behavior problems such as digging through your trash.

It’s healthiest for your pet to lose the weight gradually, so that he has time to adjust to the reduced amount of food before making more adjustments. Your vet can be a very helpful guide here, letting you know if weight loss is too much or not enough.

Even if the weight loss is gradual, you will notice a difference in how your service dog is working as the weight comes off and he enjoys more energy and better health. Weight loss is a long term project, and is the same for people as it is for dogs. The best chance for your pet to not only lose the weight but also keep it off is a slow approach.

Why less food is so important

Most service dogs are larger dogs, such as labs and shepherds. On a medium to large sized dogs, a few extra pounds aren’t as noticeable compared to a couple of extra pounds on a tiny yorkie. Yet even just a few extra pounds on your service dog can not only decrease his lifespan, but also his quality of life. According to VCA dog hospitals, just 5 pounds of extra weight can be enough to put your dog at risk for chronic health conditions. The smaller your dog is, the more those extra pounds can stress the body.

Your service dog is a partner that gives you independence. Making sure he is healthy enough to continue to help you for as long as possible is a sensible step and is as easy as pouring a few less kibble into his bowl. He might not love a diet, but he will love the good health he can enjoy well into his twilight years as your partner in life.

Posted on

Coronavirus: The Need for Emotional Support Animals is Real

Covid-19 brings a slew of stresses that can trigger any number of emotional responses. It seems everything is threatened, from our health to our livelihoods, to our natural sociability. Now, it is perhaps more evident than ever how much comfort an emotional support animal can offer through companionship and touch. An emotional support dog, cat or other pet can provide deep therapeutic wellbeing in these troubling times by providing friendship, purpose, and presence.

According to the CDC, some responses to the COVID-19 outbreak can include severe fear and anxiety. This may include:

  • Difficulty sleeping or changes in sleeping patterns
  • Changes in diet and eating patterns
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Exacerbation of chronic health conditions
  • Exacerbation of mental health conditions
  • Alcohol and drug abuse

The CDC recommends a few ways to cope with stress and anxiety about the virus, including regular exercise, meditation, deep breathing, reducing your amount of news intake, avoiding alcohol and other substances and staying connected to loved ones through whatever means available. An emotional support animal can also be a great support.

The Stresses of the Corona Virus and How Emotional Support Animals Can Help

Below are a few of the emotional fears that corona virus can trigger. They are by no means insignificant and an emotional support animal is just one way to help mitigate fears and assuage overwhelm.

Isolation

In times of social distancing and mandatory stay at home orders, itis no surprise that a sense of isolation or loneliness can be developed or magnified, resulting in anxiety, depression or even PTSD. An emotional support animal can help soothe these emotional burdens by providing companionship, connection and touch. Letis look at each of these in turn:

Companionship provides the simple, but profound comfort found in sharing a space, or a life, with another living, breathing creature, such as an emotional support dog. Of course, an emotional support animal becomes more than an anonymous creature—they become an integral member of your family and an irreplaceable part of your tribe—even if together you are a family or tribe of two.

This companionship can of course develop into a deep bond of intimacy and love that is the definition of friendship. A friendship with your emotional support dog or other emotional support animal, as with any friendship, can provide feelings of joy and connection. You enjoy each other’s company and develop a rapport of sorts.

Your emotional support dog can also help in times of isolation by providing touch. Touch is something so often underacknowledged, and yet so crucial to the emotional well-being of human beings. An emotional support animal can of course provide plenty of nourishing touch. They are there to nuzzle, scratch, pet and cuddle.

Unemployment and Loss of Financial Security

Our ability to provide for ourselves and our families is critical our sense of overall security. When we lose a job or are in financial stress, especially with no idea when our situation will change, it’s normal to feel our stability deeply rocked. An emotional support animal can help alleviate some of the burden by providing a sense of purpose.

How do they give us a sense of purpose? Well, just as they provide nurturing and comfort, they also require a certain amount of attention and nurturing. An emotional support dog, for example, will get you out of the house to go on walks. (Incidentally, getting out of the house, even just for short walks and with a mask covering half of your face, can also help with feelings of isolation.) An emotional support cat needs you to change the kitty litter and of course, all emotional support animals need to be fed and watered every day.

It may seem small, but even these small responsibilities provide purpose. And it is a comfort to tend to the needs of a loved one, even if you aren’t able to work for a paycheck for the time being.

The Unknown Future

A fear of the future is a general, murky fear of the unknown. What does the future have in store? The truth is, we never know what the future has in store for us, but the sensation is truly magnetized in times of crisis.

One way to soften the anxiety around the unknown, is to ground into the present. Emotional support animals can be wonderful at helping us do just that. Your emotional support dog will snap you out of your ruminations on the end of the world when they need to go outside to pee. And when your emotional support cat curls up with softly squinting eyes in the evening, their purr resounding through the room, you’ll reminded that all is well in this moment.

Emotional support animals also have the ability to make us feel safe and at home—they help us relax, give us a feeling of snugness and warmth. In a world of unknowns, these sweet beings can make us feel deep gratification and contentment, grounding us in the present moment.

Illness, Death and Grief

On the extreme end of this virus crisis is both the fear of illness and death, and actual illness, death and grief from losing loved ones—made all the more awful since social distancing prevents large funerals and group grieving.

When dealing with these fears, an emotional support animal can help in all the ways mentioned above: they may help you to be more present, give you a sense of purpose and provide a nourishing relationship full of affection and touch.

When faced with the loss of a loved one, there may be no great consolation but time. However, sometimes just having a familiar presence by your side is a subtle, but appreciated comfort. An emotional support animal can be that friend.

Your Emotional Support Animal

In these troubling times, being able to find comfort in an animal friend can make a world of difference to your emotional well being.

If you live in an apartment that doesn’t allow pets, or you feel overwhelming stress when traveling alone, you may want to get a registered emotional support dog or other animal. An emotional support dog by your side could help assuage anxiety while maintaining social distancing in public, for example.

Alternatively, if you already have a special animal, you could get them registered as an emotional support animal.

Whatever your registration needs, the National Service Animal Registry can help. An emotional support dog or other animal can help relieve the emotional uneasiness during this pandemic.

If circumstances related to Covid-19 are causing severe anxiety and stress, be sure to seek help. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you can also call the disaster distress helpline at 1-800-985-5990. Get your own ESA letter and make your pet an emotional support animal here.

Posted on

Fruits Your Dog Should and Shouldn’t Eat

Many of us enjoy sharing food with our dogs, even when they are a service dog. They are so easy to feed, always available with an appetite and an interest in whatever foods you’re preparing or eating. It can be easy to assume that if your dog wants to eat something, it can’t be so bad, right? It’s not uncommon, then, to toss your service dog an apple slice or a bit of banana. But are fruits really so good for our wagging tailed friends?

As usual, the answer is a bit more nuanced than a simple Yes or No. In general, most fruits are ok for dogs to eat in small and once-in-a-while portions. In this article we’ll look into what role (if any) fruits play in a service dog’s diet, how to safely feed your pup fruits (in a way that will cause the least collateral damage), and which fruits are actually toxic to a dog’s health. We’ll also look at some specific fruits and find out what their nutrient offerings are, so you may intelligently decide what to put in your service dog’s diet.

Are Fruits Necessary for My Service Dog’s Diet?

Fruits are not necessary for canine health. Fruits are essentially nature’s candy, filled with delicious, oh-so-sweet sugar (in the form of fructose). However, your service dog does not need much sugar. In fact, they get all the sugar they need to survive from carbohydrates (which break down into sugars). Too much sugar in your service dog’s diet is detrimental to his health.

On the other hand, when we look at a dog’s diet in the wild, we see that they do actually eat some fruit. The key here is that they eat a little. Suckers for strong smells, scavenging dogs are especially attracted to rotting fruits and vegetables that have begun to ferment. Additionally, they will eat berries directly off of a bush.

So, are fruits necessary for your service dog’s diet? No. But they do eat a small amount of fruits in the wild and they are can receive some benefit from eating fruits, on a limited basis.

Let’s look at some of the benefits below:

What is the Benefit of Feeding My Service Dog Fruit?

It’s important not to confuse what makes a healthy human diet with what makes a healthy dog diet. We are very different species with different nutritional needs. While humans can do well to include fruit in their diets on a regular basis, it’s not the same for canines.

So, what good, if any, does fruit provide to dogs? Well, fruit offers dogs all the same benefits it offers to humans: vitamins, minerals, hydration, fiber and antioxidants. Really, your service dog should be getting all their nutrients from their high protein dog food, but their bodies certainly can and do process fruits to receive this nutrition as well.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of fruit for dogs is the high antioxidants content. Antioxidants fight free radicals, preventing and preparing oxidative stress, which ultimately protects against cancer and other ailments.

So, will your service dog benefit from fruit? Well, they can. However, they will receive the most benefit if their fruit intake is kept to a minimum. Let’s look at why this is the case.

What are the Negative Side of Fruits?

Fruits are often hailed among humans as being uber healthy, since they are so full of good nutrients and provide us with quick energy when our blood sugar levels drop between meals. However, fruit also has a darker side, particularly for dogs.

As mentioned above, fruit is essentially nature’s candy. In other words, it is packed full of sugar, which can be hard on your service dog’s system. Additionally, the high fiber content, something that is great for humans, can actually be too much for dogs. Let’s take a look at these dangers in more detail.

Sugar-Why is sugar bad for dogs? A multitude of reasons actually: tooth decay, inflammation, poor gut health, weight gain & diabetes, for starters. Let’s break these down:

We all know that sugar is infamous for being bad for our teeth. Basically, tooth decay happens when bacteria that naturally live in the mouth turn sugars into acids. This leads to demineralization in the tooth enamel, which in turn leads to dental decay (ie. Cavities) and dental disease.

Too much sugar also causes inflammation, which means it can both cause and exacerbate arthritis, allergies or even some cancers. When inflammation (a natural body process used as a defensive mechanism against infection) is triggered by chronic intake of sugar, it can become a real problem for your service dog. Some symptoms of chronic inflammation include allergies, fatigue, joint pain, abdominal pain, swelling, mouth sores and rashes.

As if dental health and inflammation weren’t bad enough, sugar can completely screw up the balance of micro organisms in the gut, leading to a thriving atmosphere of the “bad” gut bacteria at the detriment of the “good” bacteria. This can lead to diarrhea, yeast infections and a perfect playground for parasites to thrive. While all of this information is true of humans, it is possibly even more so for your service dog, if only because they need so much less sugar than humans, meaning their bodies will more quickly be thrown out of balance.

Sugar can lead to obesity, which is a growing concern among veterinarians who are seeing more and more overweight dogs. Obesity is dangerous for your canine because it can cause or exacerbate other conditions such as arthritis, heart and respiratory problems. And of course, obesity, can lead to diabetes.

Diabetes type 2 can be caused by excessive sugar in the diet. Insulin is what monitors sugar levels in the blood and helps the body translate sugar into energy. When there’s a ton of sugar, there is a ton of insulin being produced. This can actually lead to cells becoming nonresponsive to the insulin and the pancreatic cells (which produce insulin) become exhausted.

Ultimately, what all this means is, your service dog’s body may wind up having too much blood sugar content, which leads to all kinds of complications, such as organ damage, nerve damage, arterial disease and depression (to name a few).

So keep your service dog healthy by keeping his pancreas happy. Don’t overdo the sugars, so the pancreas doesn’t have to overwork and get worn out!

Fiber-The other complication that can be found from feeding your dog too much fruit, has to do not with the sugar, but with the high fiber content.

While humans need a lot of fiber in our diets, due to our long guts and high-in-vegetation diets, dogs need much less. While dogs need only small amounts of fiber in their diets, they do need it.

In the wild, a dog would get a good amount of fiber from their prey animals: the bones, fur, cartilage and tendons are all fiber. Studies have shown that animal-based fiber is the healthiest source of fiber for dogs, cats and other predator animals, causing less toxic buildup in their bodies.

Of course, we generally think of fiber as being plant sourced, and in a domestic dog’s diet, it typically is. In the wild, a dog will eat the stomach contents of their prey, which means they will get plant-based fiber from whatever their prey is eating (i.e. grasses, barks, berries and other vegetation).

However, many domestic dogs actually get too much fiber, which results in lack of nutrient absorption and frequent bowel movements. Talk to your vet about your dog food options to make sure your service dog food is high in protein and doesn’t contain a ton of filler (such as unnecessary fiber!).

When feeding your service dog fruits, consider that the high fiber content means they really don’t need very much.

How to Share Fruits with Your Furry Friend

So now that you understand the positive and negative consequences of sharing fruits with your dog, you may be thinking, “the negatives clearly outweigh the positives,” but you still want to toss your dog an orange slice or banana piece. Well, good news-the point of this article is not to make you freak out that every time you’ve shared fruit with your service dog you’ve been doing damage.

Sharing fruits with your service dog (with the exception of grapes, and some other toxic plant parts which we’ll discuss below) is fine, as long as you are keeping it to a minimum. Just don’t feed them a whole fruit salad for dinner. A bite here and there as a treat is fine, fun, and even nutritional.

There are, however, a few rules of thumb on how to feed your dog fruit in the most conscientious way, insuring he gets the most nutritional value while avoiding potentially damaging consequences.

First and foremost, as with any new food you are introducing to your service dog’s diet, you want to introduce fruit slowly. Sensitive dog stomachs can respond harshly to foods they aren’t familiar with, causing diarrhea or even vomiting. Additionally, by starting small, you can watch out for potential allergies.

Allergies happen when any dog meets with a particular protein he can’t handle, resulting in anything from itchy skin to organ failure. By starting out slowly, you can observe your service dog’s response and not overfeed him something that will have major consequences.

When feeding your service dog fruits, keep it fresh! In other words, avoid dried and canned fruits. Dried fruits concentrate sugars, which, as we discussed, can lead to major complications with your dog’s health over time. Canned fruit also tends to be extra sweet, often swimming in a syrup of added sugar and preservatives that are definitely unhelpful to your sweet service dog’s health. Stick to fresh fruit!

It is also best to use organic fruit when possible, to avoid damaging pesticides and fertilizers. If not possible, at least be sure to rinse the fruit well, to get as many pesticides and chemical fertilizers removed as possible.

It is also always a good idea to be aware of potential choking hazards. Cut fruit into small bites and remove any big seeds. Dogs tend to gulp their food, rather than chew, leading to complications.

Along this line of thought, it’s also a good idea to remove any peels. While our instinct may be to let our service dog chew on a banana or orange, complete with peel, since it resembles a chew toy and provides entertainment to the dog, in reality, the rough fiber of peels is too much for a dog’s digestive system.

This dense fiber is really challenging for a dog’s stomach to digest. In addition, if they don’t chew it well (and dogs are notorious for not chewing their food!), it can cause plugging of the intestine, which can be deadly. While they will usually just pass the peel, it is really best to avoid the potentially fatal consequences.

If you know your service dog has eaten a peel and is now puking, treat it as an emergency-a dog will puke if their digestive tract is plugged up.

Toxic Fruits! AVOID

Cyanide and Cherries: Often listed as toxic to dogs, the fruit of a cherry is actually just fine for your service dog to consume. However, the seed contains cyanide and is considered poisonous.

In fact, cyanide is found in cherry pits, apple seeds, apricot pits, peach pits, plumb pits and in most stone fruit pits in general. Cyanide is a poison that works by blocking the flow of oxygen between cells, resulting in cell suffocation. Symptoms of cyanide poisoning in your service dog can include dilated pupils, difficulty breathing, bright red gums, shock and even death.

While cyanide poisoning is no joke, it would also require a fair amount of ingested seeds to lead to an emergency situation. Obviously, it is best to avoid eating these seeds altogether, but do not panic if your service dog eats one or two-likely he will be fine. Monitor him and call the vet if you notice any symptoms.

With all the fruits mentioned above, it is important to cut the fruit away from the seed when feeding it to your service dog. This is not the time for letting a peach pit be a chew toy.

Grapes: Grapes (including raisins, grape juice, currents and trail mix that contains raisins!) are the only fruit that are truly toxic to dogs. Seemingly an easy snack to toss your pup’s way, they can actually lead to fatality.

While it is still not understood what this canine-harming toxin in grapes is, the effects of it are real enough. Grapes and raisins can lead to sudden kidney failure. Some dogs are effected, and some are not, though there is no understood pattern among those effected (it has caused kidney failure across breeds, sexes and ages).

Additionally, grape poisoning in canines does not appear to be dose dependent. This means, unlike with the cyanide found in fruit pits, only a couple grapes could cause serious damage to your service dog.

Symptoms of acute kidney failure include a lack of production of urine, halitosis, lethargy, stomach cramps, weakness, loss of appetite, diarrhea & puking (often within a few hours of eating the grapes), tremors, seizures, and death.

If you suspect your service dog has eaten grapes, monitor her closely. If ingestion happened within the last 2 hours, you can induce vomiting by pouring hydrogen peroxide down her throat. Call your vet immediately for guidance.

Canine Friendly Fruits:

Apples: Apples contain vitamins A and C and are low in fat and protein, making them a good snack for your service dog.

Bananas: Bananas are super high in potassium and also contain biotin, copper and other vitamins. However, they are also super high in sugar, so keep pooch’s snacking to a minimum.

Blue Berries: Blueberries are a superfood and make an excellent dog snack. They are high in antioxidants, great for the eyes and are akin to berry snacks dogs would eat in the wild.

Melon (cantaloupe and watermelon): High in water and nutrients, melons are fine as a snack for your service dog, but their high sugar content means they should be kept to a minimum.

Cranberries: Cranberries are great, especially fresh-they are more sour than sweet.

Mango: Mangos are a fine snack to share with your service dog, just be sure to remove the peel and pit. They contain vitamins A, B6, C and E.

Oranges: Oranges are a good snack, so long as you remove the peel which includes too much roughage for a dogs digestive system. Oranges are high in vitamin C and potassium.

Peaches: Peaches are high in vitamin A and a great snack, as long as you remember to avoid giving your service dog the pit. In other words, don’t just hand your dog a whole peach to munch on, tempting as that is!

Pear: Pears are excellent fruits to share with your service dog, being high in copper and vitamins C and K. Again, be sure to avoid the seeds.

Pineapple: Pineapple is great because it actually contains an enzyme called bromelain which helps with absorption of protein-excellent for a meat-eating dog!

Raspberries: While raspberries are great for their anti-inflammatory effects, and are low in sugar, they DO contain some xylitol, which is bad for your service dog. Just be sure not to feed your dog more than a cup at a time.

Strawberries: Strawberries contain an enzyme that actually works to whiten your dog’s teeth! However, they are also high in sugar, so be sure you aren’t so excited about white teeth that you’re actually causing cavities for poor Fido.

Tomatoes: Tomato fruit is great, but be sure your service dog doesn’t get a hold of the green part of the plant which contains a toxin called solanide. Only toxic in large amounts, watch out if your dog is eating your tomato plants in the garden!

Conclusion

Sharing fruit with your service dog can be fun and even nutritional for them. Just be sure to keep their fruit intake to a minimum and AVOID GRAPES! If you stick to that mantra, you and your furry pooch will likely have many happy days sharing the fruit basket.

Posted on

Top Things a Service Dog Can Help You With

When people think about service dogs, they tend only to imagine seeing eye dogs. This, however, is only one type of service dog. These pets can be trained to perform so many different kinds of tasks to help their owners. Dogs can do a lot to help people with chronic conditions, including identifying dangers and providing emotional support. Read on below to learn more about the different types of services that a service dog can offer.

Mobility Assistance

For those who have limited mobility, service dogs can help them with everyday tasks that would otherwise be challenging or impossible to complete. A service dog can be used to help with retrieving objects, balance support, opening and closing doors, and more. The dogs that aid with balance support may wear a special harness for their owner to hold on to. These pups can help in emergency situations too.

Emotional Support

One of the most common types of support dogs is emotional support dogs. As the name suggests, these service animals help to provide emotional support for those who need it the most, people who are suffering from anxiety, depression, PTSD, phobias, and more. These pets can help to make you feel more relaxed, safe, and comfortable in situations where you otherwise may not. If you have an emotional support dog, you may want to look into getting a service dog certification.

Medical Assistance

Some service dogs can also be trained to provide specific assistance for a medical need. They can detect a change in blood sugar, hormone levels, or some other measurable symptom that could have a dangerous effect. Some of these dogs are even taught to dial 911 in an emergency.

Wheelchair Assistance

In addition to helping those with limited mobility, there are some dogs whose only role involves helping those in wheelchairs. Your service dog may be able to help you pick up dropped items, open doors, fetch things, and complete any other task that you regularly perform in your daily life.

Seizure Alert

If you have epilepsy, you may benefit from the help of a seizure alert dog. Pups can be trained to respond to seizures in a few different ways. They can alert someone close by that you need help, or they push an alarm device that will call for help. These dogs can also lie on the floor next to their owner to prevent injury or break their fall at the beginning of a seizure. There are even some dogs who can alert their owner to an oncoming seizure even before it begins, though this sort of training is very difficult.

Allergy Alert

For those with severe allergies, a service dog can detect the life-threatening allergen by smell. They can alert you when they discover a food that could trigger your anaphylaxis. Dogs have an incredible sense of smell and can detect even the smallest traces of a substance. Some pups can even detect diseases, such as cancer and diabetes, by smell.

Hearing Support

Service dogs can also provide support to those who are hearing impaired. They can alert their owners to important sounds in their environment, such as alarms, sirens, horns, doorbells, and the sound of their own name. Once they hear the noise, a hearing support dog will make physical contact with their owner and guide them to the source of the sound.

To learn even more about service dogs and how you can register your emotional support animal, contact us at National Service Animal Registry.

Posted on

Choose the Right Veterinarian for Your Dog

Choosing the right veterinarian to care for your service dog or emotional support animal can be challenging. It’s important to make sure they get the very best care available and enjoy the best possible quality of life. If you have a choice of animal hospitals (also called surgeries, clinics, and practices, depending on where you’re from), it requires a little care to decide which to use.

There are many factors to consider. It’s important to find a veterinarian who connects well with your service dog or emotional support animal. You’ll also want to evaluate who provides quality services and facilities at a cost you can afford (and in a location you can get to easily). In addition, you’ll need someone you feel comfortable with and who shares your views about animal-care.

We’ll share an overview of the important issues you should consider when choosing a veterinarian, and we’ll provide information about how to get recommendations, when to start the search, the factors you should think about, and the all practicalities you ought to consider. Our goal is to give you all the information you need to make the best choice for your service dog or emotional support dog.

Ask for Recommendations

One of the best ways to find a great veterinarian in your area is to ask for recommendations from friends, family, and people who work with animals locally, such as your trainer, groomer or breeder, a local boarding kennel employee, or pet sitter. It’s important to find people who share your attitudes towards animals, and who have the same sort of animal, as different pets have different needs.

If you are moving to a new area, ask your current veterinarian for a recommendation, and/or check with local area veterinary medical associations for a list of active members.

Check the Websites of Local Animal Hospitals, Clinics and Practices

A slick website does not necessarily mean the clinic or veterinarian is highly rated. Conversely, it’s also possible for an excellent veterinarian to have a terrible website (or none at all). It’s useful to check online for some of the practical aspects of your search, however. Most websites should offer important details, such as hours of operation, so you’ll know if the clinic is open during times that are convenient for you.

You should also be able to see the location of the practice and if parking or public transport is available. It’s more convenient if you can find a good veterinarian who is geographically close to you, since it will be much easier if you have an emergency and need to see them quickly. Proximity isn’t the most important factor, however. You might decide that it’s better to travel farther for someone who has a better reputation or a particular specialty.

Sometimes, you can even see see how many employees work at a specific practice, along with their qualifications. Good veterinarians will engage in continuing education, and you can also look for details of internships or residencies. The abbreviation ABVP indicates that they have completed 2-4 years of rigorous additional study following graduation that is certified by the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners. You can also check the website to see if the animal hospital has American Animal Hospital Accreditation.

American Animal Hospital Accreditation (AAHA)

In many states, it is not a legal requirement for animal hospitals to be externally assessed or accredited. In fact, only 12% of animal hospitals in the USA are accredited. While it is important to remember that there are many good animal hospitals in the USA that don’t have American Animal Hospital Accreditation (AAHA), this accreditation indicates that a clinic has been determined to consistently deliver care that is both safe and of the highest quality.

During the process of accreditation, the animal hospital completes an evaluation of services and equipment. A consultant then evaluates the hospital to check that it is meeting the 900+ standards required by the AAHA. The accreditation process is very thorough and includes an examination of areas such as surgical procedures, patient care, cleanliness, medical records, and leadership.

Remember, AAHA is a voluntary process and many good animal hospitals have elected to not undergo the process. If you choose a practice with AAHA accreditation, it will add a little peace of mind that they are providing services of the highest quality. If the surgery of your choice does not have AAHA, be sure to ask a few important questions (see below) so you can assess the quality of care yourself.

Don’t Wait Until Your Service Dog or Emotional Support Animal Is Sick

The best time to start looking for the right veterinarian for your service dog or emotional support animal is before you get your animal, or soon after they arrive. If you wait until they are sick, you might be under pressure to choose a veterinarian based on their availability rather than their reputation, service, or facilities.

Do some research, schedule a meeting and prepare a checklist of questions (see below) so you can get to know your veterinarian and assess whether you think the partnership will work when there is no emergency.

Meet Your Veterinarian

It’s a good idea to take your pet along to meet the veterinarian (if you can arrange a very short meeting) and see how they connect. Remember, your service dog or emotional support animal might feel stress at being in an unfamiliar environment and act accordingly, but a good veterinarian should be assertive, soothing, and able to calm him/her.

Although you’ll want to make sure your service dog or emotional support animal connects well with your veterinarian, it’s also important that the vet is good with people. In the future, you’ll likely have to follow instructions to take care of your pet after a procedure, so it’s important that you feel well informed, confident about their communication skills, and comfortable asking questions.

During your meeting, ask your potential veterinarian about their philosophy regarding animal health-care to make sure it makes sense to you. Briefly discuss key topics like attitudes toward spaying/neutering, planning for possible chronic disease, and even pet euthanasia. If you’re going to have an effective partnership with your veterinarian, it’s important to make sure you have reasonably similar views from the start. Your service dog or emotional support animal’s quality of life should be the most important issue for your veterinarian, as well as you.

Meet the Staff

It is equally important that you feel comfortable with the other staff at the surgery. During your visit take the time to meet the receptionists and any available technicians who may work there. If you have to telephone for appointments or information, you will speak to desk staff, so make sure they are approachable and knowledgeable. If your service dog or emotional support animal has surgery or spends time in the animal hospital for another reason, they will probably be cared for by the technicians, so take the opportunity to form an opinion of how competent and caring they seem.

Take A Tour of the Facilities

Take a close look at the facilities; the condition and cleanliness of the clinic can tell you a little about how they care about the work environment. A good animal hospital will be happy for you to take a tour and should show you all the facilities, unless there is a procedure taking place.

Try not to be put-off if the hospital seems busy with people and pets moving through the waiting area. A busy animal hospital typically indicates it is a popular one, so this is can be a positive sign.

Even if it’s busy, the clinic should be uncluttered, well-organized, and clean. It’s particularly important that you have a quick look at the areas where animals are treated, if possible. Trust your instincts. Would you feel happy leaving your service dog or emotional support animal here?

Don’t be afraid to ask for a quick tour. Aside from opening the facility to a quick view, a tour is also a great way to see what services are offered by the clinic, and reasons why you might need to be referred elsewhere.

Before you take a tour, think about the questions you would like to ask:

  • How long do you normally have to wait for a routine appointment?
  • Can you request an appointment with a specific veterinarian?
  • Is there an email or online system for booking appointments?
  • What is the telephone policy? Can you get advice over the phone and/or arrange for a veterinarian to call you back?
  • What happens in an emergency? Can you be seen immediately if your service dog or emotional support animal has a crisis requiring veterinarian attention? If it’s outside of office hours, will you be sent elsewhere? Will they even answer the phone?
  • If your service dog or emotional support animal needs to see a specialist, who will you be referred to? Will they be able to refer you to a board-certified specialist?
  • Is there a veterinarian on-site who specializes in dentistry?
  • What happens if your pet needs an MRI, x-ray, or ultrasound? Can these be performed in-house, or will you be referred elsewhere?
  • Is blood-work performed on-site? What about other diagnostic tests? Are lab tests done in-house?
  • If an overnight stay is required, are staff present 24/7 to monitor the animals?
Costs

The costs of veterinarians vary considerably, depending on location, facilities, and overhead, so it’s a good to get an idea about typical charges for routine procedures and compare with other clinics before you commit. It’s also a good idea to ask about payment methods, and if the costs can be split as many procedures can end up being very expensive.

If your service dog or emotional support animal needs to undergo a procedure or treatment, ask for a quote and make sure you ask for a breakdown of exactly what is included. Ask specifically if there are any additional costs you are likely to incur, such as for followups after the procedure. If you are in doubt about whether a procedure is necessary, remember you are within your rights to ask for a second opinion.

10 Tips for Choosing the Perfect Veterinarian

There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing a the right veterinarian. To make it easier for you, here is a summary of our top ten tips.

  1. Recommendations – Ask people who share your attitudes to animals for recommendations. As well as friends and family, ask people who work with animals locally such as people who work in kennels, groomers, trainers and breeders.
  2. Practicalities – Will you be able to get to the practice easily? Consider the location, parking, public transport, opening hours and how long it usually takes to get an appointment.
  3. The Veterinarian – Are you happy that the veterinarian is the right person to take care of your service dog or emotional support animal? What qualifications do they have? Do they connect well with animals in general and your pet in particular? Do they have good communication skills? Do you feel at ease asking them questions?
  4. Other Staff – Do you feel confident in the other staff members at the practice? What qualifications do they have? Do they seem caring, competent and knowledgeable about the animals? Are they approachable?
  5. Facilities – Are the facilities at the surgery clean, well organized and up-to-date?
  6. Accreditation – Is the animal hospital accredited by the AAHA?
  7. Services – Does the clinic offer a broad range of services? Do they have in-house facilities for most procedures or will you be referred elsewhere?
  8. Specialists – Can the veterinarian refer you to a board-certified specialist if necessary?
  9. Emergencies – Can you see your veterinarian easily in case of emergency? If not, what are the arrangements for referrals to other emergency-care services?
  10. Finance – Are the costs for routine procedures comparable to other surgeries in the region? Does the surgery offer a payment plan?
Final Thoughts

Remember, it’s much better to start looking for the right veterinarian for your service dog or emotional support animal before they are sick or experiencing an emerging crisis. Request a tour of the animal hospital, meet the staff and ask as many questions as you need to assess whether the service is right for you. Keeping these factors in mind should help you find the perfect veterinarian for you and your service dog or emotional support animal.