There’s a reason a dog is a man’s best friend. Dogs are loyal and affectionate. They give their owners unconditional love and many hours of laughter and companionship. But dogs go well beyond being fluffy pets: they provide other powerful benefits that can actually be measured by science. Studies show that cancer patients who spend time with a therapy dog are in better moods and have lower blood pressures as well as reduced stress levels.
Emotional support animal owners don’t need studies to know the important role their ESA plays in their lives. Their ESA can help them with everyday tasks they may find difficult to do. They can also keep a watchful eye on their human, get help if something is wrong, and provide the support and love a person needs to get through their difficulties.
An emotional support dog can make a wonderful therapy dog. Owners who benefit from the love and support of their companion should consider training their ESA as a therapy dog. They can volunteer by making visits to hospitals, senior living homes, and hospices to bring comfort to others.
Difference Between a Dog’s Service Roles
The American With Disabilities Act (ADA) gives individuals in need of a service or emotional support animal certain rights and protections. Service dogs and ESAs can accompany their owners in stores, airplanes, and in other public places. They are allowed to live in rentals where pets are not normally allowed if the pet owner has a doctor’s letter justifying the need. There are three main types of assistance animals. Here’s a closer look at each role.
A dog is typically the most common animal used. Service animals help people with disabilities with tasks they’re unable to do themselves. They’re highly trained to perform tasks for their owners who are deaf, blind, or in a wheelchair.
Emotional Support Animals
ESAs provide their owners with emotional support to improve or maintain their well-being. They expand into a wider variety of animal types and don’t require the level of training that service animals do.
Therapy animals provide people with comfort and affection. They’re often accompanied by a counselor, social worker, or their owner. They don’t have the same level of protections and rights under the ADA as a service dog or emotional support animal has. Nevertheless, you’ll often find therapy animals making visits to senior living centers, hospitals, libraries, and schools.
Health Benefits of Therapy Dogs
Most people agree that dogs are loving and entertaining companions. A dog also brings its owners health benefits. Besides the known support they bring to cancer patients, studies show that dog owners may have a lower risk of heart disease and improved mental well-being.
The calming and uplifting effects of owning a dog can help people who suffer from anxiety, especially when used in tandem with anti-anxiety medication such as Ativan.
Perhaps one of the biggest breakthroughs of how a therapy dog or ESA can improve the health of those they come into contact with is the findings on chronic pain. It’s estimated that 100 million U.S. adults suffer from some form of chronic pain. Researchers found that chronic pain sufferers who spent time with a therapy dog responded that their pain, fatigue, and emotional distress levels were lower.
The ESA Can Be a Perfect Therapy Dog
A dog’s loving, playful, accepting, and affectionate nature can provide healing and support to those around them. Your emotional support dog is probably well-trained, accustomed to going everywhere with you, and behaving appropriately. Consider giving back to your community by volunteering yourself and your dog to visit hospital patients, children, and the elderly to bring them just a few minutes of love and support. The time investment is small, but the benefits your therapy dog can provide to others can be great.