I’m notorious for attempting to convince everyone in my life to get a dog. I love the furry animals, but I often travel or am in places that aren’t particularly dog-friendly. So my latest mission is to convince my dad to get a dog.
Could having a well-trained dog, such as a service dog or an emotional support dog, benefit someone who has Parkinson’s disease?
Parkinson’s disease and dogs
For someone with Parkinson’s disease, service dogs have been shown to help their owner with challenges like maintaining balance. About 38 percent of people with Parkinson’s disease fall at least once a year, so balance might be one of the disease’s bigger threats. The right service dog could assist its owner in maintaining balance and alerting someone if the owner falls.
Dogs also can help with freezing episodes by nudging or encouraging their owner to move forward.
While it might not seem intuitive to add another living being to your household, service dogs are trained to perform tasks that their owners might be unable to perform. When properly trained, dogs can turn off the lights, open doors, and carry small items.
Additionally, many Parkinson’s patients experience depression and anxiety. Dogs can have a positive influence on some of these symptoms. Having a dog around your home can help to combat feelings of isolation while increasing overall health and well-being.
But what type of dog is best for you?
Service dogs are seen as an extension of their human. They are trained to perform tasks that their owner might be unable to perform.
What you need to know about service dogs:
- Service dogs can go anywhere their humans go.
- They aren’t legally obliged to wear a vest, patch, or other identification.
- They don’t need to be professionally trained to be considered service dogs.
- Hotels and landlords can’t charge you additional fees for having a service dog.
- Service dogs come in any shape or breed.
If you’re a dog lover, you might find it useful to know that service dogs don’t always have to be on duty. Sometimes they’re allowed to kick back and be their puppy selves.
Emotional support dogs
Emotional support dogs essentially are a legal step down from service dogs. They’re intended as therapeutic animals, not to help you perform tasks. You won’t have as much legal flexibility with a support dog as you would with a service dog. For instance, national parks in the U.S. aren’t pet friendly. But because service dogs are seen as an extension of their humans, they are legally allowed. Emotional support dogs wouldn’t be.
While finding housing, landlords are allowed to ask if you have a disability and if your dog assists with your disability. They’re required to allow you to live with your emotional support dog or another animal regardless of their stance on pet ownership.
I know that dog ownership involves many important factors. They can be expensive. You want them to have a good, active life and a nice yard. Sometimes, the thought of a young dog can feel overwhelming because they require so much attention.
But adding a reliable companion to your life might make a bigger difference than you realize. (Hi, Dad. Get a dog!) Not only do dogs have a grounding effect on their loved ones, they’re also capable of offering a tremendous amount of support in terms of the tasks they can perform.
Do you have a service or emotional support dog? What benefits have you encountered? Please share in the comments below.
Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.