How to Help Your Dog Through Fireworks Season

It’s here! Fireworks season is, for some, a great time to enjoy the beautiful explosions of light and sound high overhead.  But many dogs don’t get as excited about fireworks as their humans. Many are actually terrified of them. (Of course, the same is true of many people!)  For many pet lovers, this loud, colorful season of celebration is actually a stressful time. It doesn’t have to be that way for you or your beloved pet.

Why does your dog shake, hide, bark, maybe urinate or even run away during these festivities?

A study by the School of Veterinary Sciences at the University of Bristol found that there are multiple signs of fear or anxiety in animals that are underreported. Many of us identify the normal signs such as shaking, trembling, seeking human comfort, or barking, because those are what we tend to do when dealing with fear – except maybe for barking.

The research found that “Other behavioral signs, such as decreased activity or salivation, may not be as easily recognized by owners as signs of fear, and may be under-reported. Also, signs of urination, salivation and destruction may make pet parents disappointed or angry, and this may influence their interpretation that such behaviors are associated with fearfulness.”

The study concluded that a dog’s early life experiences greatly influence this behavior. “Our results suggest that the characteristics of dogs, their early environment, and exposure to specific loud noises are involved in the development of fear responses to noises.”  A full 45% of dogs struggle with firework induced anxiety. An additional outcome of the study showed that less than a third of dog owners sought advice from a veterinary professional on how to best help their furry friend cope with all of these environmental situations.

Reduce some of that anxiety by understanding some causes of these reactions and offer some ways that you can help keep your four-legged friends feeling safe during the upcoming holiday season.

We’ve included several tips on how to help your dog manage these triggers. Remember, you should always seek the help of your vet in how best to manage the anxiety that your pet may be dealing with. 

1. Take your dog for a walk.

Getting your dog out for some exercise before the fireworks start can help put them in a calmer state when the show starts. Additionally, getting your dog to run around or chase a ball can help them naturally use up some energy to ease their nerves for the evening show. You may even consider doing this multiple times throughout the day until the display begins. The more energy they burn ahead of time, the less they have to expend when they get stressed.

2. Create a safe space.

If you know your pet is likely to experience anxiety due to fireworks, try creating a safe space for them where they can be comfortable. Make sure their favorite toys and pillows are close by during the fireworks. Having familiar comforts will help them with coping when the fireworks kick off and their anxiety is triggered.  Think of it like you’re creating a den for your dog. You can also add a dog appeasing pheromone into the environment, which has been shown to have a calming effect on your dog.

3. Pet and cuddle them.

Providing comfort to your pet by petting and holding them will remind your animal that they are safe in your caring arms. Comforting by physical touch will soothe your pet just as they do for you in your moments of stress.

4. Try CBD or hemp chews.

CBD or hemp can be calming for both people and animals. Pet stores now carry a variety of hemp-based options for dogs which may help your pet to feel calm for the fireworks and significantly reduce their reaction to show time. 

5. Use a compression hoodie.

Try reducing the noise level for your pet. A compression hoodie wraps around your pet’s ears to help ease firework anxiety through sensory deprivation. The hoodie will help function as a “noise cancelling headset” for your pet so that they do not encounter the fireworks as dramatically and everyone can enjoy the evening more.

6. Try a weighted vest.

A weighted vest provides a swaddled effect on your pet much like when swaddling a baby. This will help your dog feel safe and secure when the noise comes. There are many versions of these available on the market, so do your research before purchasing one for your dog. Some are geared towards helping a dog be healthier and more fit and do more than just provide comfort. There are some that are waterproof and meant for recreational purposes, and there are sizes and colors for every dog out there. Bonus: this can also be helpful if your dog experiences anxiety during thunderstorms.

7. Reduce the noise.

Try to reduce the sound of the fireworks for your pet as much as possible by closing windows and curtains and playing music or utilizing a white noise machine. Doing so will reduce the impact of the noise for your pet, making the experience altogether less alarming.

8. Talk to your vet.

Ask your pet’s vet about medication options to help ease your dog’s anxiety. Vets will often provide a mild sedative to help your dog relax and stay calm during a fireworks show. Be sure to have an informed, thorough conversation with your veterinarian on this topic. You don’t want your dog to become dependent on medication and a behavioral modification plan should be part of any treatment. Some sedatives act as a numbing effect and don’t actually calm the dog’s fears; they simply don’t let them respond, which isn’t what you want for your pet. A good sedative would allow your dog to experience the fireworks while reducing their fear.

This list is not exhaustive! There are many options available to you to ease your pet’s nerves during this loud season of celebration. Discuss further options with your vet on how to best help your best friend deal with the fireworks. If your pet struggles with high anxiety during fireworks season, be sure to be prepared in advance with the tips listed above.

You’ll additionally want to be sure your dog is fully vaccinated and wearing proper ID in case they run off: this way they can get home safely and be protected from other run-ins with animal friends. By taking these measures to ensure the comfort and security of your pet, you will be able to enjoy the colorful displays of fireworks knowing your animal is properly equipped to face the fanfare. By ensuring that your dog also enjoys them, you can both have a great summer of having fun!

Keep Your Indoor Cat Entertained (When You’re Busy)

We love having quality time with our furry felines, but sometimes they demand our attention at times when we need to focus on other things. To help maintain your cat’s happiness and your own productivity, we came up with 10 ideas you can use to keep your indoor cat entertained while you’re busy working, cleaning, food shopping, socializing, or otherwise living your life (we know – cats don’t understand any of that!).. Entertaining your cat is about more than fun and exercise. We all know our cats have an intelligence that leaves us in awe and a curiosity that leaves us in stitches. All of those aspects of your cat need stimulation! Read on to see how you can give your cat new ways of being entertained all day and every day..

1. Automated Toys:

Cats love to play by chasing and catching things. Try entertaining your cat with a toy they can chase around like a battery operated toy mouse. Your cat will become so enthralled with chasing it around, that you’ll even have fun watching! And who knows – if you ever have a mouse problem in your home, the training may have come in handy!

2. Window Seat:

Cats are people (but really animal) watchers! Having a window seat is a great, simple way to keep your cat entertained.  On top of a premium spot to watch what’s going on outside, it provides a nice perch for them to sunbathe.

3. Bird Feeder to Watch:

This is a great accompaniment to the window seat! Place a bird feeder outside within view of the window, and your cat will spend seemingly endless amounts of time bird watching…you may even notice their mouth water!

4. Cat Tree:

There are many benefits to having a cat tree. The size of the cat tree is really up to you, but the more cats you have the more tiers you may want to consider. Felines have a hierarchy and they will demonstrate that by where they place themselves on the tree. The higher up the tree, the higher up the cat is on your home’s pecking order. Another great benefit of  a cat tree is that they occupy normally small footprints in your home layout but meet a lot of needs of your furry friends:  exercise, isolation when needed, and a multi-level hideaway for multiple cats.

5. Another Cat:

You have one, why not get another? Ok, there may be some valid reasons you wouldn’t want to, but there are a lot of benefits to having a friend for your cat to keep them company when you’re unable to. There are several things to keep in mind though before introducing your cat to another feline. 

  • Temperament is everything. Before introducing a cat permanently into your home you may want to see if a friend has one that they would let your cat meet first and gauge how that goes. Once you decide you are going to make the move of adding another cat, be aware of how you do that. 
  • Don’t just bring the new cat in and take them to each other. That first interaction will set the tone, and if it seems aggressive to your first cat it will take time to overcome that. 
  • Bring the new cat into a separate room with a door that separates them. This will allow them to catch the scent of each other without feeling threatened. Do that for a day or two and then slowly bring them together. This will make it less threatening and they will have already developed a curiosity about the new creature behind the door. 
  • Keep in mind that you may want to get your cat spayed or neutered first!

6. Hiding Spaces:

Cats love to hide in small, quiet spaces! Whether it’s a cat house, a closet, or a paper bag, cats love to find places to retreat to. Try setting up some special hiding nooks for your cat to curl up in for some quiet nap time!  

7. Food Puzzle:

Food puzzles are a great way to keep your cat active and happy! If you’ve never seen or used one, they are toys designed to encourage your cat’s natural foraging desires. They solve a simple puzzle and receive a reward in the form of a meal. Research by the University of California-Davis shows that these games can improve your feline’s overall health and stimulate them mentally. In fact, up to one-third of cat parents use them!

8. Scratching Post:

Cats LOVE to scratch! Getting them a scratching post will not only keep them busy, it’ll save your favorite pieces of furniture too! The best way to keep your furniture intact is to make sure that your cats have a fun alternative that happens to provide a lot of benefits to their health. Scratching posts do more than protect furniture; they help with shedding of loose layers on the claws, help your cat stretch, exercise, and reduce stress. Getting a cat to use the post can be a challenge at first. You can get them to start by using catnip and treats to encourage them andalso by playing with them around the posts with wand-type cat toys.

9. Games on Tablets: “Games for Cats” app and “Laser Pointer” app:

Yep! Now there are games for cats that you can set up for them on your tablet! These games engage cats by enticing them to chase a fish or a laser on the screen. Similar to the automated toys, these games appeal to the cat’s instinct to chase and hunt! And if we are being honest, it’s a lot of fun for we humans to watch! Be careful letting them use your devices so they don’t get damaged. 

Simply go to your device’s app store and search “apps for cats” and prepare to be amused and amazed! (Remember they are for the cats, so if your friends catch you playing them, just tell them you’re trying to beat your cat’s high score.)

10. Catnip-infused paper bags:

This is not a drill! Catnip-infused paper bags are a thing! They can be found at many retailers and they provide lots of fun for your furry friends. We’ve all seen a cat hide in a paper bag or cardboard box waiting to paw at an unsuspecting passerby. These bags take that to another level as they can’t get enough of them and will spend hours being the cutest item you’ve ever seen in a paper bag.

Nothing beats quality time with our beloved felines, but it’s nice to know there are a variety of ways we can keep them busy while we’re missing snuggle time with them. Let us know which are your cat’s favorites!

9 Memes ESA Owners Can Relate To

Or as we are calling it: dog memes for the rest of us. There is no shortage of animal memes all over the internet. But what about those loving emotional support dogs who support us every day? They deserve a special place in the memedom of the internet. We found 9 totally relatable memes to capture those special moments with your ESA.

1. One thing at a time, Human!

“She said what??? Omg, SO cringey” Talk about empathy! You can (and do!)  tell your ESA everything. Now that’s a loyal friend!

2. WHAT IS THAT?!

Every time you give your dog a treat, it’s like they’re getting one for the first time. The awe, the wonder! That crinkle of the snack bag, the rustle of the box…  “What is that?!?” We go through this every day, Fluffy.

3. Oops, I did it again!

Cue the Brittney Spears because you just stepped on it…again. That’s ok – we all need some playtime!

4. Good morning, Human! Breakfast?

What better way to wake up?? That grinning morning face makes it a little easier to get your feet on the floor and start your day. That morning breath though! “We are talking to you, Human!”

5. Man Dog, Dog Man?

We love our ESA’s as much as the next person…. ok well, maybe not as much as THIS guy. Whose idea was this? We’re thinking the dog lost a bet.

6. Find your bliss, Linda. We’re here for you!

Can you have too much of a good thing? When it comes to emotional support dogs, definitely not.

7. Let a sleeping dog lie.

This guy supports your need to nap. What a pal. Climb in, cuddle up, and get some Zzzzs…. If you can get your pillow back.

8. Thera-pupist

We’d pay more than a dollar for this cutie’s advice! These should be set up everywhere in the world. Best therapist ever!

9. Work it!

Looks like your ESA got ahold of your phone for some selfie time! Keep trying! Every dog picture is a good dog picture.

We love our therapeutic puppy friends and can never get enough of their antics! No matter how goofy, silly, or technologically challenged they are, they’re the best at making us feel loved and supported. And while they make some adorable memes, they are even better friends!

5 Ways to Keep Your Energetic Dog Entertained When You Can’t Go Out In The Rain

The weather outside is frightful! Throughout the late spring and summer, many parts of the United States see regular rain and heavy thunderstorms. That can make it hard to go outside as much as you – and your dog – would like to. 

Dogs vary greatly in their responses to rain, soggy ground, and sometimes cold spring weather. Some dogs LOVE rain but really hate wet grass under their paws. Others won’t set foot outside when the rain  is coming down, but they are ironically happy to play in a lake or pond.. Still others are willing to go out only long enough to take care of necessities and then run right back inside. If you are able to safely get your dog some outside time, make sure to keep an eye out for puddles that may contain things like oil from a car or pesticide run off and clean their paws completely when you’re back home, or invest in paw protection before you go out. Even so, there are times it’s just too wet  and nasty for man or beast to leave home.  

And if you’ve had an energetic dog going stir crazy in yucky weather, you know how badly that can go, for you and your furniture…your shoes… your plants…your treat supply.  Even the most wonderful dog can go a little wild when they are unable to burn off excess energy. If, like so many of us, you’re working from home, it’s even harder! In their doggie brains, you’re there and that means you’re available for a walk! (They don’t check the weather apps.) How can you keep your pooch occupied for an extended time when they can’t go out much?

The Shell Game

This used to be a staple on game shows for humans!  Use three opaque cups (clean, empty yogurt containers are perfect) and put a treat under just one of them. You must let your pet watch you do this. Then, while they watch, mix up all three cups, swapping their positions several times. Step back and see how long it takes your pooch to find the treat. They’re developing scenting skills and solving a puzzle, which is great for their brains.

Treat-dispensing Toys

We all know how much our dogs love their treats! Making those treats harder to get will keep them occupied for hours (or at least minutes). Whether you choose a Kong, a Buster Cube, a Genie, a DIY option made from a tennis ball or something completely different, your dog will be intensely occupied trying to get at the goodies inside! Some pet owners swear by peanut butter inside a Kong! (Pro tip: if peanut butter is your dog’s favorite treat, make sure you use a toy that can be safely washed with HOT water and soap or run through the dishwasher.) 

For an extra level of difficulty, get a few of these toys, fill them up and hide them in your dog’s favorite spots while they’re napping. If you have flights of stairs, a basement, multiple levels of your house, make the most of your space. Their noses will lead them to the treats and extend the fun and mental workout!

Interact as Much as You Can

Tug of war, wrestling, fetch, hide and seek – all of these will keep your active dog engaged inside. What you can do is obviously dependent on how much space you have and how big your puppy is. It’s SO hard for them if you’re working from home and focusing on anything BUT them. Taking even 20 minutes to play with them, twice a day, followed by delivery of a fresh Kong, will satiate their needs for both activity and YOU time. 

If you have stairs inside your home, you can use those to make the most of “fetch,” throwing things to the top and bottom, and wearing your puppy out.

Slow Feeding Toys

Snuffle mats, puzzle feeders, lick mats and other options take the treat-dispensing toy to another level. These creative options, available online and at major pet retails outlets, make your dog work for their food. Unlike cats, dogs are known for scarfing their food down. Slow feeders can help keep your pooch from eating too fast, while keeping them entertained. 

They exercise your dog’s brain in ways you couldn’t imagine!  If you want to make a slow-feeding toy specific to your pet, Pinterest and YouTube have tons of options and detailed directions to help you out.  The idea is that your pet has to solve the puzzle or follow the path to get to their dinner.

Learn More Tricks

IF you have the time, being home with your dog can be a great time to learn new things. We know that, even if you’re working from home, you may not have the time you WANT to devote to your dog. But if you do have the time, indoor time is a wonderful opportunity to teach even an old dog new tricks. Check out YouTube and Pinterest to learn more awesome ideas about how you can train your dog while spending more time inside.

Get Another Dog

We know…. This might sound counter intuitive. Two dogs are more work than one. But the bonus is that they keep each other entertained! Two dogs, no matter their relative ages, will keep each other exercised, entertained, happy and healthy. They will chase each other, play tag with each other and tug of war over anything they can (hopefully not your favorite shoes!). 

If you already have a younger dog or puppy, getting them a BFF will have exactly that benefit. They’ll have a friend for life who will grow and age with them. If your dog is older or senior, getting a younger dog will help them become revitalized, more energized and healthier. Of course, it’s important to make sure that the dogs have chemistry and play well together. 

It’s not easy to get your energetic dog to stay calm when they can’t go outside like they’re used to. But there are lots of ways you can help your dog burn off calories and adrenaline, no matter what the conditions outside are. Playing inside as much as you can and keeping your dog’s brain active will help make that easier. 

To take your dog almost anywhere, no matter the weather, get them certified as an Emotional Support Animal! The laws are going to change and prices will increase, so it’s the perfect time to learn how to make that happen, at the best possible prices. Get your pet certified as an ESA now!

What Can a Psychiatric Service Dog (PSD) Help With?

Just the physical connection with  a dog can create calm in chaos and reduce anxiety and stress. Although that’s true for any beloved pup, a Psychiatric Service Dog is so much more than just a cute pet!

A PSD helps individuals with anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions by performing specific tasks. A service dog must have completed specialized training that is legally defined by the  Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Remember that support and comfort animals, although just as valuable to the people they help, don’t require that level of training or certification.

The training of a PSD is extensive and usually takes a year to two years to complete. A Psychiatric Service Dog must be housebroken, under the control of the handler at all times and vaccinated according to state and local laws. Although your current family dog or cat can become an Emotional Support Animal, it’s not advisable to try to train your existing furry friend to become a PSD; you should adopt a new dog and train it to serve as a PSD from the beginning or adopt a dog who is already trained.  

These service dogs are trained and equipped to provide profound support to those they accompany in a number of ways. Check out some of the benefits that a PSD provides to a person’s mental and physical health.

Grounding

A PSD can be a great aid in reducing anxiety for the person they accompany through the practice of tactile stimulation (grounding). Grounding is a dog-to-human connection such as the touch of a paw, brushing against the person’s side, sitting on the person’s feet, laying on or beside the person, or licking their face.

The best method of grounding depends on the individual service dog and the person they are supporting. The individual experiencing anxiety or stress may find certain methods of grounding more soothing than others. Similarly, each service dog may instinctively find different ways of grounding that are effective for the person they accompany. A PSD has the training and instincts to figure out what method works best for their person.

Tasks

Another great benefit to having a PSD is their ability to help with tasks. Among other things, a service dog can be trained to retrieve medication, find a phone, or get another person to assist in a medical emergency. So the PSD provides peace of mind to the companion and their friends and family as a reliable resource.

Safety

A service dog may also perform safety checks in a room or turn on a light for someone suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or anxiety. With their ability to identify danger and help lessen the risk of it,  Psychiatric  Service Dogs provide both safety and security to their human companions.

Exercise

Since both dogs and people thrive on enjoying some time outside, a service dog becomes a wonderful incentive to get out in nature, exercise, and enjoy some fresh air, all of which can improve some symptoms of depression and anxiety. It also offers great bonding time!

Companionship

A service dog offers the much needed companionship that can reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation by providing company to its human, along with grounding, motivation to exercise, and a source of security. A 2005 study showed that patients in long-term care facilities reduced their feelings of loneliness by visiting with dogs. The effect was stronger when dogs could visit them one on one, instead of in group settings, probably since people had more intense interactions with the dogs. Animal visits alone were enough to reduce feelings of loneliness.

Mood Boosters

Here’s the bottom line: it’s hard not to love them! In addition to their ability to perform much needed tasks, service dogs come in a cute, furry, affectionate, playful, lovable package! That contributes to their abilities to reduce stress and anxiety and to boost mood. It is easy to smile and be comforted when these furry companions go in for cuddles. Additionally, the security they provide allows the indoor people to feel relief, to let go of anxiety.

Lower Blood Pressure and Improve Heart Health

Service dogs have even been shown to improve heart health while reducing blood pressure and regulating heart rate. A study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) demonstrates a PSD’s effectiveness in lowering blood pressure in individuals. Blood pressure was lower when the dog was present during the entire time than when the animal was just introduced during the second half of the observation time. Another study compared the effect of stroking a dog versus resting, chatting, or reading in undergraduate students. Blood pressures were significantly lower when stroking a dog than when chatting or reading; however, it was lowest during rest. A positive attitude toward companion animals was associated with lower blood pressure overall.

People who are managing a variety of psychological challenges might benefit from the aid of a Psychiatric Service Dog. When taking into consideration all the benefits listed above that a Psychiatric Service Dog provides, it is no surprise to learn that the aid of a PSD can promote an improvement in overall health.

In fact, another review from the NCBI showed that a PSD can help with the following: reduce depression, improve mood, encourage more positive interactions with other people, a decrease in cortisol levels, lower heart rate and blood pressure, and a reduction of reported fear and anxiety. The presence of a PSD collectively provides this incredible secondary ability of improving the overall health of the person they accompany. Anyone in search of a meaningful and impactful means of managing their psychological health and symptoms could benefit from a Psychiatric Service Dog.

7 Ways to Relax with Your Pet

Pets are so good for us! Just having a pet in your home can make you less stressed and bring both joy and unconditional love to your household. It can also help you relax and reduce stress!  

In today’s world, stress is a big problem for most people. US employers lose billions of dollars each year due to stress and stress-related illnesses. Stress can cause people to have a lack of energy and focus, reduced creativity and more. For people suffering from stress, bringing a pet into their lives can make a huge difference. 

Some studies have also shown that: 

  • People with pets have lower blood pressure when stressed than those who don’t and adopting a pet can even help reduce blood pressure. 
  • Playing with a pet raises levels of dopamine and serotonin, both of which are calming, relaxing chemicals. 
  • People who own pets have lower indicators of heart disease. 
  • People who’ve had heart attacks survive longer if they have a pet. 
  • Older pet owners visit the doctor 30% less. 
  • Pet parents are less likely to suffer from depression.
Scientists believe that oxytocin, the same chemical responsible for romantic bonds and parent-child bonding, is responsible for our human connection to pets, a connection that is boosted through touch. When we interact with animals, especially dogs, oxytocin is boosted in both us and the animal.  This may be part of why dogs are man’s best friend. Dogs boost our oxytocin levels just by making eye contact, the same way that babies do with their parents. They are able to calm us just by being there, which is why they make such wonderful emotional support animals!  Although the simple presence of a pet in your home can bring many of these health benefits, it’s important to be proactive – and active – in relaxing with your pet to make the most of the connections. What are some great ways to do that?

1. Take a walk!

Your dog needs exercise, and so do you. Having a dog, especially if you don’t have a yard, means taking them out regularly for walks. Dog owners are far more likely to get their daily steps in and be more fit than people without dogs. Physical exercise helps humans reduce stress and lower blood pressure as well. 

Making sure your dog gets enough exercise helps keep them calm and relaxed when inside too. Burning off all that excess energy, especially in puppies and young dogs, is as good for your furniture and shoes as it is for the two of you!  You might even make new connections with your neighbors as you stroll around the block.

2. Visit the dog park.

If you have a dog park nearby, it’s a wonderful way to let your pooch run with other dogs. Dog parks are fenced, so they’re safe, and most dog owners who bring their dogs make sure their pets are well-socialized and friendly before doing so. Hanging out and chatting with other pet parents while your dogs run and play in a secure environment is very relaxing. Bonus points if the dog park is a walkable distance away!

3. Set aside time for playing.

Whether you have a cat, dog or other pet, most love to play! Invest in some good toys that allow you to interact with your pet. Maybe your dog loves to play tug-of-war, or your kitty loves to try to catch a bird on a “fishing pole.” Laser pointers can be fun for both cats and dogs to chase. And of course, almost every dog loves to play catch and fetch. 

Consider taking your pet to the “toy store” and see what they gravitate toward. All of these activities help your pet burn energy and allow your bonds with them to deepen, ultimately boosting all those lovely chemicals mentioned above. They also see you as a source of fun and good times, which also increases that bond.

4. Pet them.

The importance of petting your cat or dog regularly cannot be overstated. Humans need touch, and so do our pets. Just petting a cat or dog is shown to reduce heart rate and blood pressure as all those good hormones and chemicals flood our brains and bodies. A good snuggle session makes even bad days better and makes good days awesome! 

If you like to watch TV and movies to relax, turn that into cuddle time with your cat or dog. If that turns into “Netflix and napping,” so much the better. Any time you’re sitting with your hands free can become time to pet your pet.

5. Wrestle with them.

Many dogs, especially bigger breeds, love to wrestle with their people. It offers connection and play time that they enjoy. Some dogs seem to like being “tickled” in the process. They almost laugh when their bellies are scratched in just the right spot. 

6. Sing to them.

No one loves the sound of your voice more than your pets! Find some great music YOU love and let out your inner rock star. When we sing, we breathe more deeply, which instantly reduces stress and blood pressure.

7. Try dog yoga.

Dog yoga, or doga, has been around for about 20 years. It’s based on the idea that many yoga poses and the ways that dogs stretch are very similar. (The pose is called downward dog for a reason!) Practitioners of doga believe that practicing yoga together deepens the bond between dogs and their humans. Dogs get many of the same benefits from doga that humans get from yoga: improved circulation, soothing, relaxation and stress relief, gentle exercise, mobility, discipline and impulse control. For dogs that are older or recovering from an injury, doga can provide a way to get some physical activity without damage to joints. YouTube has tons of videos that can help you build a doga workout at home. You may also be able to find in-person doga classes in your community, which may help build connections for you too!

Pets are great for helping us relax and making us healthy. Taking an active role in making that happen can only boost the benefits that they bring to us, both physically and emotionally.

Emotional Support Animals versus Psychiatric Service Dogs: What You Need to Know

We all know what pets are. They’re part of the family and bring us unconditional love and joy every day! Technically, pets are “animals that are kept for company or entertainment rather than being working animals, laboratory animals or livestock.” That dry definition doesn’t come close to describing the wealth of benefits we get from having pets in our lives! 

But it’s important to know exactly what defines a pet and separates it from both Emotional Support Animals (ESA) and Psychiatric Service Dogs (PSD), as well as what separates those two categories from each other.

What is an Official ESA®?

Emotional support animals are a gift to people suffering from a range of disorders. They provide support and can calm people in the middle of a panic attack, suffering from depression or managing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). ESAs don’t require special training or perform special tasks. For someone to have an ESA, a doctor must prescribe that to them based on a diagnosed mental or emotional condition that requires additional emotional support. 

Although ESAs are protected from pet restrictions and fees by the Federal Housing Act, private businesses can choose whether or not to allow ESAs on the premises. Most businesses accept well-behaved Emotional Support Animals, including public transportation, ride shares, shops and restaurants. More employers than ever are open to the presence of well-behaved ESAs in the office as well, if conditions are safe for both employees and the ESA. 

Although the majority of ESAs are dogs, with cats second, they can be anything: rabbits, hedgehogs, even birds, and more!

What is a Psychiatric Service Dog?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) carefully defines service animals. Service animals must be trained to perform specific tasks and perform services to their owners. Seeing-eye dogs for the visually impaired are probably the type of service dog that most people are familiar with.  But service animals can perform a variety of tasks for people with a range of conditions, including deafness, mobility issues, multiple sclerosis, cancer and epilepsy. That includes mental and emotional illnesses as well, which is where Psychiatric Support Dogs (PSDs) come in. 

Many of the same conditions that emotional support animals can help their owners with can be helped by psychiatric service dogs as well. Those include depression, anxiety, PTSD, learning disabilities, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorders (ADHD), phobias, anxiety, depression, bi-polar disorder, autism and obsessive compulsive disorder.

Why do we say Psychiatric Service DOG? The ADA is strict that service animals, unlike ESAs, must be dogs, and in very specific circumstances, horses. So to simplify, we talk about Psychiatric Service Dogs rather than Psychiatric Service Animals. 

Just like any other service dog, PSDs must perform specific tasks for their owners and be trained to do so. Those tasks may include: 

  • Retrieving medications
  • Reacting and alerting the owner to specific sounds like fire alarms 
  • Grounding and reorienting people having an anxiety or panic attack 
  • Assisting with balance for people who are unsteady walking due to medications or other issues
  • Locating people or places in a crowd 
  • Interrupting and redirecting people exhibiting OCD or self-destructive behaviors
  • Navigating a person through a stressful environment such as a crowd and buffering them from people in that crowd 
  • Searching the room for people with PTSD
  • Maintaining healthy routines through task reminders 
  • Performing tactile stimulation and pressure therapy when their owner is in distress 

It’s important for owners of PSDs to understand that no one is allowed to ask your PSD to demonstrate the tasks that it is trained to perform. They may ask IF you have a condition that requires the assistance of a PSD, but not what that condition is nor how severe it is. That’s part of your right to privacy under the ADA. 

Like all service animals, PSDs have the same rights to be in any place that serves the public. While businesses may elect not to all ESAs inside, they must allow PSDs in. That includes all housing and lodging, including apartments and hotels; public transit and airplanes; and all public spaces including offices, university campuses, restaurants, bars, stores, supermarkets and more.

What’s the difference between a PSD and an ESA?

The difference in the two types of animals is primarily about the tasks they are trained to perform and the type of animal. No bird or rabbit, no matter how supportive they are to a person in need, can be a PSD, but they can be ESAs. At the same time, if a dog is not trained to perform a specific task, it cannot be a PSD, but it can still qualify as an ESA. The difference rests in the type of animal and its training.

How Do I Know If I Need an ESA or a PSD?

It’s important to understand that the difference between an ESA and a PSD does not depend on the severity of a mental or emotional condition. The best way to find out if you need a PSD is to work with a licensed doctor who will ask you to describe your symptoms and assess your situation to determine the need for a PSD or an ESA. If a doctor concludes that you can benefit from a psychiatric support dog, that’s the way to go.

Can My Pet Become an ESA or a PSD?

Absolutely! Any dog or cat can be an Official ESA®, regardless of training. If a doctor confirms that your pet provides you with necessary emotional support, then your pet  qualifies as an ESA. It’s a little trickier to turn a pet into a PSD, but it’s still possible. Remember, a PSD can only be a dog, so you can’t turn your cat into a PSD. However, if your doctor determines that you need a PSD and you already have a dog, your dog can become a PSD with some training.

How Can My Pet Become an ESA?

A medical professional licensed in your state must prescribe that you need an Emotional Support Animal to help you get through a mental or emotional illness. A simple questionnaire is the start to getting your pet certified as an Official ESA®!  We work with licensed physicians in every state to provide access to ESAs to people in need of that support. We understand that ESAs perform a valuable service – not the same as PSDs but just as important and necessary. To get your pet certified as an Official ESA®, contact us today so we can help you

Bring on the Green: Houseplants That Are Safe for Pets

dog with safe houseplants

Houseplants are good for us! They help keep our indoor air clean and bringing nature inside can change the entire dynamic and feel of a home. Many people feel more connected to the Earth when they are able to put their hands in soil and work with living plants, especially those who live in high-rises or town homes without yards. But as much as we enjoy them, some houseplants and cut flowers may not be so great for our furry roommates.

Did you know that some common houseplants can make your pet sick? Pets, especially cats, are often drawn to the leaves and eat parts of houseplants. And often, we keep those beautifully tempting houseplants at their level, especially larger ones with substantial pots. (Many a holiday has been disrupted by taking sick kitties to the vet after they’ve gotten into a lovely Christmas poinsettia!) It’s important to protect your pets from the detrimental effects of poisonous houseplants.

Plants to Avoid

Besides poinsettias, some of the most common toxic houseplants include many varieties of lilies, including Easter lilies and Lily of the Valley, daffodils, tulips, azaleas, aloe vera, some kinds of ivy, elephant ears, some ferns, cyclamen, desert roses, asparagus ferns and jade plants. Eucalyptus is so irritating to dogs that even the smell of it in your home can trigger a bad mood or lethargy in your pooch!

The symptoms of toxic poisoning can be painful and distressing for both pet and owner. Different toxins can affect different parts of your pet’s body and the intensity of their reaction can be affected by things like their size and weight, as well as how much of the plant they ingested. Common signs of poisoning are:

Symptoms of Toxic Poisoning in Pets

Plants to Embrace

So how can your pets and plants co-exist safely and happily? Avoid the risk of a sick cat or dog by making sure that your houseplants are non-toxic. Beautiful options abound that will be safe for your furry friends and bring the joy of living plants to your home. Besides the ones listed here, you can always ask your local nursery about a plant before you buy it or check with your vets office as you’re planning to shop.

    • Green Plants: Many types of common, easy-to-care-for houseplants are safe for your cats and dogs.
    • Non-flowering Colorful Plants: Although these don’t flower, they have colorful, festive leaves that brighten any space!
    • Flowering Plants: Although there are fewer flowering plants that are safe for your pets, but the ones that make the grade are gorgeous!
    • Edible Plants: If they’re safe for humans, they’re more likely to be safe for your pets.
Houseplants Safe For Pets

It’s important to know that even plants that aren’t poisonous or toxic can cause digestive upset if your dog or cat eats them, or enough of them. Try to keep plants where your pets can’t be tempted by them, such as in hanging planters, on shelves out of their reach or in spaces they don’t visit frequently. 

With a little research and planning, it’s easy to keep your home beautiful and your pets safe with lovely and safe plants that you can enjoy no matter the season. 

NOTE: If you suspect that your pet has ingested a toxic plant or any other kind of poison and you can’t get to the vet right away, contact the Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7661 or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435 immediately, anytime of the day or night, if your pet displays symptoms or if you suspect exposure to or ingestion of a toxin. Both organizations charge a small fee for their assistance.