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Many people are affected by a disability that is difficult for them to overcome on their own. However, training techniques make it possible for animals to be a big help in many ways. A service dog is the most common type of service animal because of their strong affinity to humans, intelligence, and obedient nature. 

What Is a Service Dog?

A service dog is a canine trained to perform specific tasks according to the needs of its handler. Such dogs help people with various disabilities, including blindness, deafness, mobility problems, and mental issues. 

What Disabilities Qualify for a Service Dog?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) considers someone to be disabled if their life is more difficult in some way when compared to the average person. Physical disabilities that may qualify for a service animal include:

  • Blindness (complete or partial)
  • Deafness (complete or partial)
  • Paralysis
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Autism
  • Epilepsy
  • Osteoporosis
  • Scoliosis
  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Allergies
  • Seizures

How Do Service Dogs Help Their Physically Disabled Handlers?

Service dogs significantly improve the lives of the physically disabled in many ways depending on their particular disability, including:

  • Impaired Vision or Blindness – A “seeing-eye dog” literally replaces someone’s eyes and helps that person regain lost independence. The dog can safely guide them through streets and buildings, enabling them to go grocery shopping, enjoy dining out, and much more. 
  • Impaired Hearing or Deafness – A “hearing dog” can alert its handler to sounds that they cannot hear – a knock on the door, the noise of oncoming traffic, sirens sounding, an alarm clock going off, etc. 
  • Impaired Mobility – A mobility assistant dog has four sturdy legs and can provide stability during standing or walking, pull or push a wheelchair, retrieve objects from across the room or dropped keys from the ground, turn lights on and off, cover their handler with a blanket, and more.

How Can a Service Dog Help With an Emergency?

A service dog can help prevent an emergency by reminding their handler to take their medication and sniff out allergens, chemicals, and other substances. Furthermore, a service animal can help call a family member, a doctor, or 911 in the event of an asthma attack, an allergic reaction, or a seizure, and can even be trained to roll their handler over to clear airways and prevent suffocation. 

What Mental Disabilities Qualify for a Service Dog?

Eligible mental disabilities include:

  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Mood disorders
  • Neurocognitive disorders
  • Psychotic disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Substance Abuse disorders

Psychiatric service dogs can be trained to distract from and diffuse mental conditions such as mood swings, depression, panic attacks, or self-harm by nuzzling, rubbing, or licking. They can also distract by instigating play and even administer deep pressure therapy by lying on their handler’s chest to calm them during a panic attack.

Service dogs can help contact a support person, therapist, or suicide hotline through pre-programmed numbers on a dog-friendly device. They can also assist people with PTSD or anxiety through crowd control. 

How to Qualify for a Service Dog

The disability must fall under the ADA’s definition. Then the prospective handler must provide documentation from a medical professional that their disability could be supported or improved in some way by a service animal.

Final Thoughts

The tasks service animals are capable of are nothing short of astonishing. However, if you or your disabled loved one needs more care than a service animal can provide and you live in Columbia, SC, please contact Caring Healthcare for in-home care options.