Service dogs don’t just help people who are blind to navigate the environment anymore. They can support people with a variety of mental and physical health conditions, allowing them to live more independently and avoid serious complications.
If you’re wondering, “Do I qualify for a service dog?” the answer varies. The definition of a service dog can also vary, depending on who’s giving it.
Under the Americans With Disabilities Act, a service dog has to be trained specifically to do a certain task or work for someone with a disability. That means an animal that purely provides emotional comfort doesn’t qualify under the ADA.
Even if your condition doesn’t meet the ADA guidelines, you can still have an assistance dog to help you. These dogs often alert their owners of oncoming medical issues, help them with daily tasks, and provide comfort.
Keep reading to explore 13 conditions that may benefit from a service dog.
High or low blood sugar causes scent changes that a trained service dog can detect on your breath. Your dog may be able to tell when your blood sugar is off before you feel any symptoms.
The dog alerts you so that you can test your blood sugar levels. Having that early warning from your service animal allows you to use insulin or glucose to remedy the problem before it causes serious issues.
Some dogs can be trained to detect a seizure before it happens. By alerting you of the oncoming seizure, you can get to a safe place to avoid serious injury.
The dog also stays by the handler’s side during the seizure. If the owner needs medical attention, the dog goes for help, alerting people nearby with barks. Your dog can also be trained to press a button on a medical alert system to call for help.
If you’re legally blind, a service dog can help you navigate wherever you go. They alert you to stairs and curbs to prevent tripping, and they can guide you around obstacles.
Guide dogs also help people cross roads safely. They might help you find things in public, such as an entrance to a building or an elevator.
When you’re deaf or have diminished hearing, you’ll miss important auditory alerts. That includes ringing phones, doorbells, timers, or smoke detectors. Your service dog can nudge you to alert you of those sounds and then lead you to the sound.
Having a service dog to be your ears also helps you stay safe. Your dog might warn you of oncoming traffic or let you know someone is approaching you from behind.
People with autism may find service dogs supportive and helpful in social situations. The dog can help the handler feel more comfortable in social situations, something that’s often difficult for people with autism.
If the person tends to wander off, the dog can try to keep the handler from getting lost or going where they shouldn’t.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a common reason for having a service dog. PTSD often causes hypervigilant behavior. It can cause anxiety when entering a room, approaching corners, or being in a crowded environment.
Your service dog can check out areas before you enter. Dogs can be trained to turn on lights or round corners first to check out the situation.
When you’re in a crowded public space, your service dog can serve as a barrier between you and other people. This gives you more personal space to keep you calm.
- Mental Illness
Many mental illnesses can be managed better with the help of a service animal. The dog can be trained to remind you to take your medication for a variety of conditions, including schizophrenia, depression, or bipolar disorder.
If your mental illness causes confusion or disorientation, your service dog can help guide you and keep you safe. For example, if you have a dissociative episode, your service dog can prevent you from entering dangerous situations.
If you’re at risk for self-harm, your dog can help distract you through nuzzling and licking you. This can help diffuse the situation and redirect your behavior.
If you have OCD, your service dog can help interrupt your repetitive behaviors. Those behaviors can often be disruptive to your daily life.
Your dog is trained to spot when your behaviors become disruptive. Service dogs nudge or paw at you when you get stuck in the cycle of repetitive behavior. The dog becomes a distraction that can help you stop the behavior.
If you suffer from anxiety, trained therapy dogs may be able to ease your anxiety or shorten anxiety attacks. Simply being around the dog can decrease your anxiety.
Service animals can be trained to spot an anxiety or panic attack. They can comfort you and use specific maneuvers to help stop the panic attack.
One example is deep pressure therapy. The dog puts his weight on your lap or abdomen to help calm you.
- Paralysis or Limited Mobility
If you’re paralyzed, have limited mobility, or are confined to a wheelchair, a service dog can help you with daily tasks. The dog can help you get around by pushing or pulling the wheelchair when needed.
Service dogs also retrieve items for people with limited mobility. They can turn on lights attached to special buttons, open doors with levers, or perform other daily tasks.
This allows you to stay as independent as possible without always relying on other people to help.
People with severe arthritis may not be bound to a wheelchair, but they may have difficulty moving around and grabbing items. A service dog can help by retrieving or carrying items for the handler. They can also help with things such as pressing buttons and opening doors.
- Neurological Conditions
Some neurological conditions also limit mobility and grasp. This includes multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease. Like other conditions that restrict movement, these conditions may benefit from the assistance in daily activities that service dogs can do.
If you or your child have life-threatening allergies, a service dog could keep you from accidentally ingesting something dangerous. Some dogs are trained to sniff out peanuts, gluten, or other allergens. They can warn you before you eat it to prevent an allergic reaction.
Do I Qualify for a Service Dog?
The answer to “Do I qualify for a service dog?” depends largely on your condition and how the service dog can help. Many physical and psychological conditions qualify you for a service or therapy dog. Learn more about your specific health condition in our archives.