It is a well-known fact that there is a connection between one’s physical and mental health. The first Director-General of the World Health Organization— Dr. Brock Chisholm– once said: “without mental health, there can be no true physical health.” That’s why it is so important to look at all options available to us when seeking treatment for mental health issues.
Emotional support dogs are incredible creatures who help improve their owner’s longevity and quality of life. They can assist in bettering one’s physical and mental health, often at the same time. Here is why you should consider getting an emotional support dog, and how to get it done.
How Emotional Support Dogs Help Physical Health
Dogs have been proven to positively impact their owner’s health in a variety of ways. One of the most important impacts is through stress reduction. Adults who own a dog are said to have lower stress levels than non-pet owners. Furthermore, children who have a dog present while being examined at the doctor’s office experience less stress than those without.
Stress, while often viewed as a mental affliction, has profound, physical impacts as well. Most notably is the release of cortisol– the stress hormone. Cortisol is meant to get our bodies through stressful situations by shutting down unnecessary systems, increasing our blood pressure, and heart rate. While this is essential in life-threatening situations, it can wreak havoc in cases of chronic stress and cause weight gain, reproductive issues, and heart disease.
Dogs have also been known to reduce blood pressure and assist in weight management efforts due to their love of physical activity. Dog owners are often more active than people without dogs, resulting in both boosted physical health and mental health through the release of endorphins.
Finally, dogs are instinctive creatures who often sense a problem before we do. People who have epilepsy benefit from having a dog who can alert them about an oncoming seizure well before it transpires. This can help the individual try to manage the stressors that trigger their seizures, or alert someone and get to a safe location.
How Emotional Support Dogs Help Mental Health
Emotional support dogs are seen as an effective treatment option for a variety of mental illnesses, including PTSD, depression, and anxiety. They are even mandated for those who are experiencing a life-threatening physical illness (which can in itself be mentally traumatic) or the recent death of a loved one.
Emotional support dogs offer a source of love and support without judgment. They give their owners a sense of purpose and help them stay calm when triggered by a stressor. While other animals can be registered as emotional support animals, dogs truly live up to their calling of being man’s best friend in these scenarios.
Registering an Emotional Support Dog
To register an emotional support dog, one needs a letter of recommendation from a licensed medical practitioner. The doctor or therapist who drafts this letter should indicate that an emotional support dog is an important asset in treating their patient’s mental illness. The patient can then take this letter forward and secure their registration for an ESA.
Registering your dog as an ESA will allow you to keep your canine companion with you in a rental housing which has a no-pets policy, as well as on commercial flights since the latter can be a triggering event for those with anxiety. Getting an ESA is a holistic approach to treating mental health and can be a great exploratory option for those who want to try unmedicated approaches to symptom management.
If you don’t own a dog already and are looking to get one for this purpose, consider adopting a rescue dog. Rescue dogs often require extra love and affection and give their owners the bonus of knowing they are helping another living creature who needs support as well.