What is an emotional support dog and how do they help?

Emotional support dogs, or emotional support animals in general, provide comfort and affection to help an individual who is suffering from an emotional or mental health condition. Unlike service dogs, emotional support dogs are not trained to perform certain tasks.

A service dog acts as form of medical equipment along with companionship. They are trained to perform tasks that their owners cannot complete on their own, like doing chores around the house or helping to navigate through streets. Emotional support dogs’ number 1 job is to provide stability and unconditional love.

Those with anxiety, panic attacks, mood disorders, depression, and various other psychological conditions benefit from emotional support dogs. These dogs (or cats, or even pigs!) offer a therapeutic benefit through companionship.

It is for this reason, many doctors are prescribing emotional support dogs to patients in need of the soothing and comfort provided by a loving animal. Emotional support dogs are becoming more integral in the treatment of certain disabilities. Owners of emotional support dogs may experience reduced anxiety, lower blood pressure, and generally improved quality of life.

Though emotional support dogs are not considered medical equipment on par of a service dog, there are still laws in place that allow these animals to be with their owners as much as possible. For example, emotional support dogs are now able to fly with their owners on planes at no extra charge. All you need is written proof from a doctor or mental health professional.

Additionally, laws are in place where owners of emotional support dogs will still qualify to live in pet-free housing at no extra charge. However, if you own an emotional support dog, you may still be barred from entering motels, theatres, libraries, and other public areas, as your dog will be considered just pets and have no additional rights.

As stated previously, you need written prescription from a licensed physician or mental health professional in order to register or be given an emotional support dog. If you have any of the following mental or emotional health conditions, and it seriously impacts your ability to live effectively, you may qualify for an emotional support dog:

  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Depression
  • Mood disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Phobias
  • Thoughts of suicide

Though not an exhaustive list, this will give you an idea of whether or not an emotional support dog is right for you.