Would you like to significantly reduced pain, live a longer life and lower blood pressure? If you answered yes, you may be in the market for a service pet or animal. Various studies have shown the remarkable health benefits of owning a dog, cat or horse for patients suffering from chronic pain. It has long been known that pets can work wonders in physical therapy, in assisted living for people with disabilities and in schools, hospitals and nursing homes. Now, however, research is expanding to reveal the wonderful, wide-ranging biochemical and physiological effects for those suffering from fibromyalgia.
Finding a Rock in a Sea of Pain
Smaller breeds of dogs have been effective in relieving common fibromyalgia symptoms, such as decreased energy levels and chronic pain. Dogs provide fibromyalgia patients with a sense of grounding when they are caught in fibrofog. Through their unconditional love, dogs encourage FMS patients to be more active, obtain better range of motion and better balance. Overall, fibromyalgia patients have found these dogs to give them a sense of security and independence they had never known before. These pets have given their owners the courage to tackle daily tasks and work with renewed vigor.
Benefits of Pet Therapy
Studies have shown that chronically ill patients visited by dogs in the hospitals had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, epinephrine, anxiety, heart and lung pressure. Studies have also shown that petting a dog has a calming effect on all people, greatly facilitating human communication, learning and awareness. Pet therapy is used in hospitals, clinics and in schools for assisting the blind, deaf, physically disabled, people with Multiple Sclerosis, alzheimer’s, attention deficit disorder or epilepsy.
A Remarkable Turnaround
There have been many testimonials over the years of how dogs changed fibromyalgia patient’s lives. For example, a California woman used a breed of Mexican hairless dog, Xoloitzcuintlis, to generate body heat. The dog’s own body heat worked as a type of heat therapy and dramatically reduced her pain. The volunteer organization Domesti-PUPS, that trains and socializes dogs from eight to 14 months, says that about 20% of their client base are fibromyalgia patients.
How to Find the Right Pet
People with fibromyalgia who are mobility impaired would most benefit from service dogs. Service dogs are trained to run errands, like turning lights on and off, helping with the laundry, opening doors and retrieving medicine. Traditionally, Golden retrievers and Labrador retrievers are chosen as service dogs but any dog with the right temperament may be chosen for you. If you are interested in finding a service dog, cat or other animal to help with your pain relief, you might want to check with your local animal shelter. Tell them you are looking for a service animal for daily assistance and they can direct you to service animal directories or animal assistance organizations.
Getting a Service Dog
A service dog is defined as a dog that has been specifically trained to help you with your disability. Therefore, to get a service dog, you must be legally defined as having a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. You will have to fill out and submit an application to the organization of your choice to be considered eligible for a service dog.
If you qualify, disability insurance may cover the associated fees for your application. Since there can be a long waiting list for service animals and the fees can range in the thousands of dollars, you will want to explore all your options and do a lot of research before choosing an animal.
Animal Health Care and Responsibilities
Even though service dogs are trained to care for you, they themselves need a lot of care, just as any pet does.
It can take up to a year to fully train your dog or pet into your family and environment.Dogs can live for up to 20 years, so you will want to take into consideration the amount of time you have to train your dog, your work schedule, the cost of pet food and supplies, licensing and health care. Before you bring your pet home, you will have to do a thorough safety check. Here are a list of safety concerns for your dog:
- Clean up broken glass, concrete or deep holes
- Make sure you fix broken gates or fences in your backyard
- Allow your dog suitable running and playing space
- Cover up or make a barrier around swimming pools, ponds or hot tubs
- Cover up or tape electrical cords
- Safely store harsh chemicals, antifreeze or poison out of your pet’s reach.
- Put away toys or anything that your dog could choke on.
Your pet will need to be fed once or twice a day, groomed daily, taken to the veterinarian on a regular basis, potty-trained, allowed to exercise and given lots of love and attention. If you give your pet a loving home and life, you will be tenderly rewarded.