Can You Get a Service Dog for Endometriosis?
Last updated: August 2020
I swear my dog Della knows I’m in pain even before I do. During a flare up, she insists on pressing her body against mine, adding just the right amount of pressure and emotional support to help me feel not so alone and helpless in my suffering.
Della’s a black and white shelter dog, some kind of bully breed (most look at her and think “pit bull”). I initially adopted her as a pet, not specifically to help with my endo.
But when so many of us get support from our pets, some people wonder if an animal could help with chronic pain in a more official way.
Can you get a service dog for endometriosis?
Here’s the scoop on service dogs and how they might relate to your needs as a person with endo.
How a dog might help with endometriosis
Only you know the details of how much endometriosis disrupts your daily life. You might sometimes have cramps and fatigue so bad, you can hardly get out of bed. Your endo symptoms might also overlap with other chronic conditions, such as depression or fibromyalgia, to make the pain feel even more unmanageable.
When I say that my dog Della knows I’m in pain even before I do, I mean that can actually come in handy. Ibuprofen rarely helps me at all during a severe pain flare up, but if I can catch the flare up early enough, sometimes ibuprofen helps prevent it from getting worse.
So if something can alert me to pay attention just as the flare up begins – like, say, that unique way Della comes up to me when she’s worried about me – that could help me get ahead of my pain before it gets to a level where I can’t function.
Your dog could also help simply by giving you comfort. While chronic pain can feel very isolating and defeating, Della gives me hope, joy, and reasons to look forward to each day, even when I’m in constant pain.
The emotional benefits of being around animals might actually make a physical difference, too. Studies suggest that having pets lowers blood pressure.1 Inflammation plays a big role in endometriosis pain2, and if your dog’s presence reduces your stress, that could potentially help you manage your endo symptoms.
Does a dog that helps you with endo count as a service dog?
There’s a difference between a service dog and an emotional support animal (ESA). Legally speaking, the difference has a lot to do with how the dog has been trained.3
A service animal is trained to do a job related to its handler’s disability – for example, opening a refrigerator door for a person with limited mobility. So you could get a service dog trained specifically to perform a task like bring you medication when you can’t get it yourself.
If your dog helps you feel better just by nature of being around you as a dog, that’s more like an emotional support animal. ESAs provide companionship and comfort, and they don’t have to be trained for a specific task.
They also don’t have as many legal protections as service dogs. ESAs can live in “no pets” housing and join you on commercial airplanes, while service dogs are also allowed to go into public places where pets wouldn’t be allowed, like restaurants, grocery stores, and shops with “no pets” policies.
Service dogs go through extensive training to be able to go into these spaces and stay under their handler’s control. That’s part of why service dogs are often so costly, from $10,000 to $20,000 or even more. These costs can including training as well as breeding to produce dogs with the right qualities to be working dogs.
Some handlers adopt and train their own service dogs instead. But your dog has to have the temperament and training to be in public without disruptions like jumping on people or barking at other working dogs.
Could your dog be an endometriosis service dog?
It’s possible for a dog to help you with your endometriosis symptoms, alone or alongside other conditions you live with. So should that dog be a pet, an emotional support animal, or a service dog?
That depends on your individual circumstances. Not everyone with endo would need a specially trained service dog, and for most people, the perks of having a pet or ESA are enough.
To find your answer, consider and discuss with your doctor factors like cost, what kind of assistance you need, and how a dog may or may not be trained to provide that help.
One thing is for sure: however the law classifies your dog, you’re sure to get some sweet, judgement-free company on your journey with endometriosis. There’s nothing like a dog’s love to pick you up when you need it.
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