I’ll tell you right up front; the answer is almost anything. It’s important, however, to go through exactly what situations a service dog might be useful. After all, “everything” doesn’t tell you how a service dog could help you, it just says it can. I’m going to list out a few different situations and how service dogs can make a significant difference in overall quality of life. You don’t need to be deaf or blind to benefit from having one.
- Oxygen – Those tanks are heavy. Even with a cart, someone on oxygen can’t easily go outside and just walk across the grass. It’s even worse for children or the elderly because they’re not capable of carrying the tank even if they wanted to move it. A trained service dog can and will bring an oxygen tank, freeing you up to go almost anywhere.
- Panic attacks / Meltdowns – Sometimes things get a little scary for those with certain psychological ailments such as autism or phobias. Fear of running into something unexpected can keep a person housebound. A service dog provides a trusted companion that can both comfort the person and help them get to a safe place. In this case, a service dog is also a clear indication — if something does happen in public — that it’s a medical problem and not a reason to be terrified of the person experiencing the panic attack.
- Depression / Anxiety – Dogs are naturally inclined toward helping someone with depression or anxiety and may not need to be trained specifically to do so. However, if you need a particular kind of support, it might be good to consider putting the dog through service training. Simply having a companion is great for depression and benefits anxiety suffers as well.
- Seizures – A service dog is trainable to both assist and alert during a seizure, whichever is most appropriate. This service can provide significantly more independence to someone prone to unexpected seizures.
- Medical Procedures – Service dogs can be trained to provide support and to capture the person’s attention during medical procedures like a blood draw, shots, IVs, or surgery preparation. Many individuals who have chronic conditions suffer from a debilitating fear of doctors, nurses, and hospitals. A service dog can provide the support needed to make the situation bearable.
There are other things a service dog can also do. For example, most people already know a service dog can help the deaf and blind by alerting them to important sounds or sights through tactile methods. I chose specifically to list the above functions because they’re not commonly known and knowing about a medical intervention — like a service dog — can sometimes make a significant positive difference in a patient’s life.