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Disabilities that require service dogs

How To Know If You Qualify For A Service Dog

Living with a disability can make even the simplest of daily tasks seem overwhelming. Doing laundry may not seem like a big deal until you’re fighting depression or living with chronic pain. Having a service dog can help make these conditions easier to manage and your life much easier.

But how do you know if you even qualify for a service dog? Read on to learn more about the conditions that qualify for help from a service animal and how you can get one of your own.

Table of Contents

Service Dogs vs. Pets

Before we dive into the different disorders that can qualify you for a service dog, let’s talk some about the difference between service dogs and pets. Service dogs are trained to help you manage a mental, emotional, or physical disorder. They have specific tasks they perform to help keep you well and have received training for this job. 

Pets, while amazing companions, don’t have the same level of training that service dogs do. You may love it when your furry friend jumps up to say hi to you, but service dogs are trained not to do that in public, since it can distress some people. We all love our pets, and there’s no question that they bring a lot of joy into our lives, but without official training, a pet cannot function as a service dog. 

How Service Dogs Help

There are a number of different ways that service dogs can help people manage their different health challenges. In the case of physical disabilities, service dogs may provide support, guidance, or medical alerts when needed. For instance, some service dogs are trained to alert their owners when they’re about to have a seizure or when their blood sugar gets low.

In the case of mental and emotional disabilities, service dogs may help people to keep themselves out of dangerous situations. Some service dogs learn to prevent their owners from self-harming or wake them up from nightmares. Others can help their owners to perform daily tasks that they may not be able to handle on their own.

Get Your ESA Today


Due to the new Department of Transportation (DOT) policy, Emotional Support Animals are NO longer allowed to fly in airplane cabins for free. However, Psychiatric Service Dogs are eligible.

Service dog rights

Legal Rights of Service Dogs

Service dogs are legally protected under a number of different pieces of federal legislation. People who have certified service dogs have a right to keep the dog with them anywhere they go. This includes restaurants and stores, on airplanes, and in housing that may have a no-pet policy.

The Fair Housing Act requires all housing authorities to allow people with disabilities to keep their support animals with them at all times. The Air Carrier Access Act protects the rights of people with service dogs to bring their animals with them on flights. And if you need to check if you qualify as “disabled,” the Americans with Disabilities Act lays out the criteria for that designation.

Disabilities That Require Service Dogs

Physical Impairments

There are a number of different physical disabilities that require service dogs. Sensory disabilities, including being deaf or blind, are one of the most common, as is multiple sclerosis. ALS, cancer, cerebral palsy, and muscular dystrophy can also qualify you for a service dog, as can a spinal cord injury, Parkinson’s disease, or arthritis.

Some people with diabetes need a service dog to alert them when their blood sugar is too low. People with chronic pain, people who have had a stroke, and people who are paralyzed can also qualify for a service dog. Other qualifying conditions include vertigo, epilepsy, physical weakness, seizures, mobility problems, neurological problems, and more.

Mental or Emotional Impairments

In some cases, people may need a service dog to help them cope with a mental or emotional disability. People with age-related cognitive decline can qualify, as can people with autism, bipolar disorder, or PTSD. Many psychiatric disabilities qualify for a service dog, although there are some exceptions.

People living with depression, separation anxiety, or social phobias may benefit from having a service dog. If you have severe panic attacks or you get extremely emotionally overwhelmed, you may qualify. Extreme stress problems may also qualify you to get help from a service animal.

How Service Dogs are Trained

We mentioned that service dogs receive specific training, but what does that training look like? In general, service dogs spend the first two years of their lives training for their eventual job. What that training looks like will depend a lot on which disorder they’re being trained to support.

Service dogs will usually spend their first year of life learning basic obedience commands, as well as being properly socialized with other people and animals. During their second year, they’ll learn more advanced support techniques. This can include learning to smell the subtle changes that happen in the body when someone’s blood sugar drops or when they’re going to have a seizure, as well as other such techniques. 

how service dogs are trained

Learn If You Qualify for a Service Dog

Service dogs can be a great help for people trying to navigate the world with a disability. Everything from chronic pain and ALS to panic attacks and depression can help you qualify for a service dog. Be sure to work with a reputable matching service that trains their dogs to perform the functions you’ll need in your service animal.

If you’d like to learn more about if you qualify for a service dog, check out the rest of our site at American Service Pets. We are the nation’s leading all-in-one solution for approving emotional support animals for service. See if you qualify for free today and get your official approval letter soon.

ESA or PSA Certification?

The benefits of an Emotional Support Animal certification and a Psychiatric Service Dog certification are drastically different. Fortunately for you, American Service Pets’ network of active board certified doctors can help you find the right path to certification. To find out whether you need an ESA or PSD letter, take our easy, three-step Pet Owner Survey!


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