January 18, 2018

Emotional Support Dogs and Depression

Dogs: They Care for You, Take Care of Them

Service animals are common in today’s society and they help the physically disabled function more fully in their communities, but that’s not the only way pets assist people in their daily lives. In addition to those types of service animals, many local and state governments are creating legislation to protect emotional support pets. Unlike service dogs that assist the physically handicapped, emotional support dogs help patients cope with mental illness.

These canine lifelines can help with PTSD, anxiety, and of course, depression.

Emotional Support Dogs Help Patients Cope with Depression

An emotional support dog is prescribed by a mental health professional, because the psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist believes that the presence of a pet in the home will be therapeutic for the patient. Caring for a dog, for instance, can provide a sense of stability and provide focus for individuals struggling with depression and anxiety.

Emotional support dogs don’t enjoy all of the same freedoms as a typical service animal, which is specially trained to perform specific tasks. As service animals assist a disabled individual with daily tasks, such as leading a blind person, they’re typically permitted in restaurants, grocery stores, and municipal buildings. While most states don’t have laws granting these same privileges to emotional support animals (ESA), there are allowances in relation to housing and air travel. For instance, most laws prohibit a property owner from refusing accommodations to a prescribed ESA, even when that property has a “no pets” rule.

The special allowances for a certified ESA are granted because the law recognizes the importance a pet can play in helping a patient who may be just getting over depression or striving for sober living in Los Angeles. The companionship provided by an ESA can ease feelings of loneliness for those who live alone and can provide comfort and affection to those struggling to deal with symptoms of depression. Even anxiety can be soothed through the love of an emotional support animal.

While their “sixth sense” when it comes to reading your emotions and responding, is nothing short of miraculous at times, this is only a small part of what they can do for you if you’re depressed. They can help fight off feelings of loneliness and isolation just by being there. They make you get up and get moving, which can be a struggle when all you want to do is hibernate. Of course, exercise can then lead to the release of endorphins, which fight of depression as well.

Caring for Your Emotional Support Dog

There’s more to keeping an ESA than just accepting its love and affection. The patient must accept the responsibility of raising a pet, which means learning what a healthy lifestyle for pets entails. The basics, of course, involve providing plenty of drinking water, nutritious food specifically engineered toward that breed of pet’s metabolism, and abundant exercise. If your ESA is suffering from pain or discomfort, you may find yourself asking “can a dog take Ibuprofen?” Part of caring for your ESA is keeping them comfortable and safe. Stimulation of the animal’s mind is also important, which can be achieved through training and structured play sessions.

Additionally, the patient must be tutored in providing medical care for their ESA, which means regular visits with a trained and licensed veterinarian. At the very least, the pet will need annual vaccinations and a yearly check-up, though more frequent visits may help to identify the onset of serious illness early. Even housebound pets can pick up a parasite or infection while outside for a walk or to do its business.

Catching injuries and illnesses early is especially important for the owner of an ESA pet, because this kind of pet serves such an important role in the owner’s life. The unexpected death of an emotional support animal can devastate a patient struggling with mental illness and could set his or her progress back.

Together, the patient and the emotional support animal can provide companionship and mental stability to one another. It can become a healthy relationship, fulfilling needs for both the patient and the animal, but the patient must accept the responsibility of caring for the pet. As the patient takes the new support animal into the home, he’ll be much more capable of coping with the daily struggles of mental illness.