How Can An Emotional Support Dog Help A Veteran?

Anyone with a pet knows that a big lick from your best friend is bound to put a smile on your face.  

Animals can quickly elevate your mood, and for veterans suffering from PTSD or emotional distress, this is even more important. An animal can be by your side at all times even when it seems like no one else is.

Doctors have begun recommending emotional support animals as legitimate forms of therapy for veterans. Unlike a service dog, emotional support dogs do not need special training, yes, even your pup could be certified. 

If therapy in a cramped room is not right for you, then an ESA can help. Keep reading to find out the benefits of this experience.

What Is an ESA?

Any animal can be an Emotional Support Animal, not just a dog. As long as the animal is potty-trained, responds to its owner’s commands, and is officially certified that it provides therapeutic value, it can be an ESA. 

Service dogs are trained to help people with physical disabilities, for example; anticipating a seizure or a seeing-eye dog. Emotional support animals act as therapy, not as physical assistance.  But emotional support is just as valuable as a service dog’s help and can make a real change in a veteran’s life. Here are a few ways ESAs can help veterans with PTSD. 

How Can an ESA Help Veterans?

Post-traumatic stress disorder is all too common in veterans, with about 12% to 15% showing symptoms.  The trauma of combat for veterans can make everyday activities seem impossible. But a dog by your side may be able to ease some symptoms. 

Walks Help Humans and Pets 

Going outside a few times a day is as healthy for veterans as it is for dogs. PTSD sufferers can be hesitant to leave their house and having a dog encourages social interaction and gentle exercise. Exercise also improves mood, so every time you put the collar on your dog and get your blood pumping your mind thanks you.

When your dog meets another dog on the sidewalk, you are encouraged to have a conversation with its owner. Simple communication with strangers is a great way to get outside your shell. Veterans talking to civilians can help them integrate back into everyday life.

Less Travel and Living Restrictions

Live in a pet-free home? Emotional support animals are permitted in all homes, even animal-restricted apartments and dorms. With proper notice and paperwork, most airlines will allow ESAs on board with you. 

Note that while service dogs are allowed in all public places, ESAs may not be without notice. It is important to carry your paperwork at all times to show that your animal is ESA certified.

Ease Apathy and Lethargy

A dog grabbing its favorite toy and plopping it right at your feet is impossible to ignore. Play keeps your dog happy but is also shown to chemically release oxytocin in humans which calms your nervous system. Cheerful barks from a dog are a safe path to be re-introduced to loud noises in a positive environment. 

Overcoming emotional disabilities is a meaningful step in the lifelong recovery process from PTSD. An ESA knows when you need to play and when you need to take it easy, the perfect partner for a veteran. Unlike a service dog, an ESA is not at work when playing, so you should feel free to play plenty and allow others to touch your dog if you wish.

Get Better Sleep

Sleeping next to a big warm dog can provide a safe space for uninterrupted sleep. Having a dog in bed with you has been shown to ease nightmares, a common symptom of PTSD that veterans suffer from.

Holding a pet that loves you releases calming hormones and puts your mind at ease.  Studies have shown lowering cortisol, the brain’s main stress hormone helps you maintain a restful sleep cycle. Falling asleep and staying asleep can be challenging for veterans, an animal by your side can change that!

Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a common therapy practice that puts the focus on each moment in front of you. An emotional support animal is going to have different needs at any moment. Having an animal to center your attention on is a healthy way to keep your mind clear and away from stress and trauma. 

Veterans can have a hard time talking through their feelings but an ESA can help them open up and make a conversation with a therapist easier.

Dogs demonstrate self-care and set an example for humans. A dog eats when it is hungry and goes to the door when it wants to go out. Simple tasks like this are easy to forget as a veteran with PTSD, and a dog makes sure you both are cared for. 

Get An Emotional Support Animal Registration Now

To qualify for an ESA you must be diagnosed with a mental illness by a professional therapist. PTSD, depression, and anxiety are all legitimate reasons for an emotional support animal. 

A letter from your therapist declaring you need your animal with you at all times will help you in situations where people doubt the necessity of your dog.

You can trust the professionals at The ESA Registration of America to provide registration forms and evaluation letters for your dog. We pride ourselves on working with veterans suffering from PTSD who deserve a companion that gets the respect and formal certification needed. 

Click here if you are interested in learning about the differences between ESAs and service dogs. Service dogs require more training and the process takes longer, but certain veterans will benefit more from a service dog. It is important to talk to your therapist about what is right for you.

We have everything you will need in one place, streamlining the complicated process of ESA certification. Fill out an application now and get started.