advice sought about Therapy Dog for epilepsy, MS other other condition,
February 6, 2015 4:06 PM   Subscribe

I have been doing some research on my health symptoms. I may have a neurological disorders. I think it could be mercury poisoning, MS or epilepsy . I would like to see if I can get a therapy dog. When I am with my mom's dog I find it calms me and reduces my symptoms. I have medicaid insurance. Do you know the paperwork process that goes into getting a therapy dog and if insurance, Medicaid specially might pay for the therapy dog?

I am trying to find ways of healing that do not involve heavy pharmaceuticals. I will probably post more when I find out my diagnosis and have spoken with a doctor.
posted by sistertips to Health & Fitness (6 answers total)
Do you know the paperwork process that goes into getting a therapy dog

Yes. You will need to start with a diagnosis.

if insurance, Medicaid specially might pay for the therapy dog?

Coverage for service dogs is state-dependent. At the federal level, Medicaid does not cover service dogs.

I am trying to find ways of healing that do not involve heavy pharmaceuticals.

This is presupposing a solution to an unknown issue. I suggest determining what issue you have, and then working on a solution. You can always get a dog yourself without a prescription.
posted by saeculorum at 4:37 PM on February 6, 2015 [4 favorites]

Mercury poisoning, MS, and epilepsy are very different things - sounds like you have been spending time with Doctor Google. You need to see a physician first to determine what's going on. Thinking about the therapy dog is putting the cart before the horse, as noted. For example. A therapy dog will be useless for mercury poisoning, but can be used in some cases for epilepsy.

On a different note, I think you should reconsider your stance on pharmaceuticals. The use of the term "heavy pharmaceuticals" makes me think you might feel that "natural" or "herbal" remedies to medical problems are less "heavy". Keep in mind that all of these substances contain chemicals, but that medications are regulated and must contain specific amounts of only the substances they say they contain, whereas herbal and "natural" remedies are unregulated and may contain undeclared ingredients in unknown amounts. Not everything pharmaceutical is heavy, not everything herbal is safe - almost every substance is toxic, it's all about the dose.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 4:51 PM on February 6, 2015 [50 favorites]

I should also add that regardless of your medical condition, if having a dog makes you feel better, you should totally consider getting a dog! Many people find dogs to be therapeutic for their emotional well being without owning an official therapy dog.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 4:53 PM on February 6, 2015 [5 favorites]

I'm sorry you've been having problems.

Therapy dogs are not usually trained to work with an individual person. Normally, the way it works is that a private person will train and volunteer themselves and their own companion dog, and each dog/guardian combo visits multiple patients or other people in need at hospitals, nursing homes, schools, etc.

Service dogs are completely different, in that they're individually trained dogs that perform specific tasks for people who fall into eligible ADA categories.

The general concept of therapy dog sounds exactly like something that is helping you, but the best way to get that would probably just be to go to a local shelter and adopt a suitably calm, affectionate dog and train him or her yourself.

If you're looking for guidance into the traits and behaviors of therapy dogs, the primary therapy dog association in the US is Therapy Dogs International, which provides support and certification for people training their dogs for therapy work. What they require is, essentially, an even-tempered, people-focused dog, and then they train it for a variety of stressful situations. It looks like they don't use this anymore, but Canine Good Citizen certification used to be a prerequisite for therapy dogs.

If you're looking for a service dog, that is, a dog that performs specific tasks for you in public settings, that's a whole different story and it's a lot more complicated and rigorous. If you want a therapy dog primarily for stress relief and companionship, though, you can do that with a regular companion dog from the shelter and a little training.
posted by ernielundquist at 4:54 PM on February 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

In some states you can register ANY dog (or cat!) as an Emotional Service Animal. This does not mean Medicaid will pay for it, but it does allow you and your animal some rights including having the animal in a "no pets" building, not paying pet rent, and being able to travel on public transportation and airlines where animals (except service animals) are not usually allowed.

My friend did this and all it required was a psychiatrist to sign off that she needed an emotional support animal, and then some paperwork to register her kitty. Kitty is now an official service animal!

You might also see if there is a PAWS (Pets Are Wonderful Support) near you. They might be able to help you access a therapy animal and cover some or all of the costs if you qualify.
posted by ananci at 5:35 PM on February 6, 2015

In some states you can register ANY dog (or cat!) as an Emotional Service Animal.

The legal status of emotional support animals is not nearly as clear as you state. Further, the Fair Housing Act only requires landlords to allow emotional support animals in the case of disability - not simply illness. The ADA does not cover emotional support animals, so whether organizations other than your landlord need to recognize an emotional support animal is at their discretion.
posted by saeculorum at 6:13 PM on February 6, 2015 [3 favorites]

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