Lupus, also known as Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease. It basically causes the immune system to begin attacking healthy tissue throughout various parts of the body. Some people may be dealing with mild or severe symptoms. Some of the most common symptoms include fever, chest pain, painful and swollen joints, mouth ulcers, swollen lymph nodes, fatigue, and even a rash that affects the face.
While the cause of Lupus may not fully be understood yet, it is believed to involve a combination of environmental factors and genetics. When a person has been diagnosed with lupus, the symptoms can be painful, creating anxiety, and even cause difficulty with mobility, especially as the joints become inflamed and painful.
While there is no cure yet for Lupus, there are various treatment options. The disease affects women more often than men. In fact, women of childbearing age are nine times more likely to develop lupus than men. Lupus is often misdiagnosed early on because the disease is called “the great imitator.” That’s because many of the symptoms of Lupus mimic or resemble other illnesses and diseases.
While medications and other treatment options can be effective, alternative treatments do not seem to have any impact on alleviating the symptoms or affecting the disease among those who have been diagnosed with it. However, for a person who loves animals and is dealing with Lupus, a service dog could be a valuable asset as they go throughout their days.
Understanding What a Service Dog Is
A service dog is a carefully trained animal that will perform a series of tasks designed to support its owner or master throughout their day. Certain types of dogs have strong mental acuity and can be properly trained to carry out a number of basic tasks. While just about any dog and several other animals could become emotional support animals (ESAs), a service dog is more specifically trained and designed to provide assistance to individuals dealing with a number of health and mental issues, including Lupus.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines service animals as “dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.”
Some of the examples the ADA provides are service dogs that assist blind people, alerting individuals who are diagnosed as legally deaf, and even pulling a wheelchair. Some service dogs can remind people with mental illnesses when it is time to take prescription medications. They can also offer great emotional and physical assistance to someone who has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder during a panic attack or other anxiety-related issues.
Service dogs are able to assist their owners in a variety of establishments and public squares. Wherever the general public has access to certain buildings, open spaces, or other areas, a service dog should be provided to go as well, so long as they are properly attired, registered and tagged, and with their owner.
In many cases, a service dog is also allowed to escort their handler into a hospital or doctor’s office, including an examination room. Keep in mind, though, that it is often inappropriate and potentially dangerous for any animal to be allowed in an operating room or burn unit because of the necessity to maintain a sterile environment.
If a person like a landlord or business owner is not certain about what the expectations or requirements are regarding the law governing service dogs, they are permitted to ask certain limited questions about it. They can’t ask about the specific health issue, but whether the service dog or animal is required because of a documentable disability and to determine what work or task that service dog has been trained to perform.
A service dog cannot be denied access to a room or organization simply because another person has a fear or allergies to pet dander. However, accommodations should be made for both as much as possible.
The Training Service Dogs Receive
Service dogs receive significant training in order to provide the support needed by the handler or owner. There are specific training requirements and certifications necessary for an animal to become a registered service dog or emotional support animal.
Some of the most pressing demands placed on a service dog are that it has a calm and even temperament. In other words, they must not be quick to get angry and do not show stress easily. They also must be dogs that do not shed excessively. For those with allergies, excessive shedding can cause significant issues that may actually increase anxiety and stress among the handlers or their families and friends.
A service dog must also be highly sociable, meaning they do not become too energetic when approached by strangers or children, but also to be open and willing to be pet if an overly enthusiastic child approaches it. They also must be able to adapt to a wide range of environments, from extremely quiet and calm too noisy and boisterous, including in an environment where fireworks, for example, maybe going off.
How Does a Service Dog Assist Someone with Lupus?
There are several different types of service dogs and while not all of them are going to be beneficial for somebody with lupus, there are a few that could be. The eight different types of service dogs are:
- Guide dog
- Hearing dog
- Diabetic alert dog
- Mobility assistance dog
- Seizure response dog
- Autism support dog
- Allergy detection dog
- Psychiatric service dog
Somebody who has been diagnosed with lupus is obviously not going to require a hearing dog or even a diabetic alert dog, but depending on the severity of their symptoms, they may benefit from a mobility assistance dog or even a psychiatric service dog.
The secondary effects of Lupus can be mental health issues, including and not limited to anxiety and stress. Somebody who is struggling with the symptoms of Lupus may have anxiety about various flareups, outbreaks, and even a shortened life expectancy as compared with the general public.
A service dog can provide comfort, detect signs of anxiety before an anxiety attack begins, and can even retrieve medications and remind the individual when it’s time to take certain prescription medicines. If the owner of that service dog is in distress, the animal can go and find someone to alert to the medical emergency.
Service dogs can also help somebody with lupus keep strangers from getting too close if the owner is in distress in a social environment.
How Can a Person Get a Service Dog?
If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with lupus and believes a service dog or emotional support animal would be a benefit to him or her, there are several criteria they must meet.
One of the first things to do is to evaluate whether or not they have a physical disability or specific mental health issue that would be helped by a properly trained and certified service animal. If their day-to-day life is negatively impacted by this disease or the mental health ramifications of it, a service dog might be a benefit.
The specific requirements an individual must meet in order to obtain a registered service dog or emotional support animal are:
- A physical disability, specific illness, or disorder.
- That person must be present while the dog is receiving training.
- He or she must be able to give commands to the dog and properly care for it.
- They must have a stable home environment.
- They must obtain a recommendation letter from their direct healthcare provider.
- They must have adequate financial resources to properly care for the dog.
Even if a person diagnosed with lupus is not going to be able to attend every training session for their dog, there is a reasonable accommodation. There are going to be certain times when their presence is necessary to complete the training.
As far as cost, even somebody who may not be able to afford the training, which can cost anywhere between $30,000 and $40,000, there are certain organizations and nonprofit groups that might be able to help. It’s important not to completely rule out a service dog for somebody with lupus.
Does Everyone with Lupus Qualify for a Service Dog?
Not everyone who has been formally diagnosed with lupus is going to qualify for a service dog. The good news is that even if you have been denied by your medical professional, you can qualify for an emotional support dog.
While an ESA is different than a service dog, with the right certification and registration, you can still enjoy many of the same benefits, including being able to take your emotional support animal with you on certain airlines, in hotels, and other places of business.
How to Get a Service Dog for Lupus
If you’re interested in obtaining a service dog or emotional support animal because of lupus, the first step is to visit your doctor. If he or she agrees that you would benefit from one of these service animals, contact the experts at www.usserviceanimals.org.
We know exactly what a service dog can mean and an emotional support animal can do for somebody who has difficulty with a medical condition or mental health challenge. If you have questions or want to learn more about how and ESA or service dog can benefit you or loved one, contact us directly.