How Can Support Animals Help Cancer Patients?
Animals can have incredible benefits to health and well-being, especially for cancer patients. Whether an emotional support animal or a trained service animal, these pets can help lung cancer patients by giving them companionship and care.
Studies have shown that interacting with animals helps the body produce more positive feel-good hormones known as dopamine, serotonin, endorphins, and oxytocin.
Cancer patients may have an influx of negative hormones, like cortisol, which can have detrimental impacts on stress, anxiety, and the immune system. For this reason, the positive impact of emotional support animals and service animals is invaluable.
Emotional support and service animals can help lung cancer patients by:
- Alleviating feelings of isolation and boredom
- Easing anxiety
- Improving emotional well-being
- Fostering socialization
- Lowering stress levels and blood pressure
- Reducing pain
Depending on their needs, lung cancer patients can register their already-owned pets as emotional support animals or pay to have them fully trained as a service animal. Other programs allow you to find fully trained service animals to adopt. However, these programs may be costly.
Sadly, too many lung cancer patients who could benefit from an animal companion may not be able to afford the costs. Lung Cancer Group may be able to help. If your lung cancer is linked to asbestos exposure, you may be eligible for financial assistance. Learn more now with a free case review.
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Emotional Support Animals for Cancer Patients
Emotional support animals (ESAs) can provide many benefits for lung cancer patients. They are not fully trained service animals and instead act as companions.
Requirements of ESAs
ESAs do not require any special training. Any house pet can be an ESA as long as you have a letter from your physician or mental health care provider demonstrating that the ESA helps you deal with a mental or physical disability or condition.
Types of Emotional Support Animals
Any domesticated animal can be registered as an ESA.
Some examples of ESAs include:
How to Get an Emotional Support Animal for Cancer Patients
Compared to getting a service animal, getting an ESA is a fairly simple process. Here are the steps to follow.
- Find a pet to certify as an ESA: If you already have a pet, you can start listing the reasons it needs to be certified as an ESA. This can be as simple as listing the ways the animal helps you cope with difficult emotions. If you don’t have a pet, consider talking with a local shelter to see if any animals are available for adoption.
- Get a letter from your doctor: Once you have the animal you’d like to certify as an ESA, bring your information to your doctor and list your reasoning for needing an ESA. The doctor will then sign a letter that will act as a “prescription” of your need for the ESA.
- Verify your ESA with a landlord: If you rent, bring your ESA certification from your doctor to your landlord. ESAs are covered under the Fair Housing Act, so you should be able to have your ESA in your home even if your landlord has a “no pet” policy. The Fair Housing Act also prevents landlords from charging additional pet fees for ESAs.
Our team can help you afford the costs associated with getting a support animal following a lung cancer diagnosis. Contact us now to learn if you qualify.
What to Consider Before Getting an Emotional Support Animal for Cancer Patients
Spending time with support animals can provide much-needed comfort and support for people with cancer and other terminal diseases.
However, you should consider the following before adopting an ESA:
- Can you care for an ESA? Do you have the time, money, and energy to care for an ESA? Can you get help caring for one? If not, you may not be ready to add the animal to your family.
- Are you or a family member allergic to animals? A pet allergy can be uncomfortable. Common symptoms include coughing, a runny nose, nasal congestion, facial pressure, and sneezing. If you believe you are allergic but still want to explore adopting a support animal, talk to a doctor to see what options you might have.
- Do you have room? Do you have enough room for your pet? Pets need plenty of open spaces and regular exercise. Otherwise, they might become destructive.
- Does the pet’s personality fit your lifestyle? Different pets have different temperaments. Make sure you choose one that fits your lifestyle and preferences. For example, if you prefer a relaxed lifestyle, an energetic breed might not be a good option.
- Will your ESA fit with your other pets? Make sure the new animal you’re considering will get along with any others you currently have. Also, allow for plenty of time for all the animals to adjust to any additions.
If you don’t have the time or resources to adopt a pet, an alternative is to join pet therapy programs. These programs are typically available in cancer treatment centers, nursing homes, and outpatient facilities.
Are Emotional Support Animals Different Than Service Animals?
Yes, ESAs are distinct from service animals. According to the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), a service animal has been trained to perform specific tasks. In contrast, an ESA does not necessarily require any formal training or have to perform specific tasks.
Some tasks service animals can help with include:
- Alerting others of emergency situations
- Aiding movement and mobility by pulling a wheelchair or adding a cane-like assistive device to their harness
- Reminding patients to take medications
Service animals are typically dogs that undergo rigorous obedience and task training. They must also learn how to not be reactive to other animals or distracting situations.
Where Can You Take Your Emotional Support Animal?
Laws for where ESAs and service animals are allowed vary. Service animals should be allowed anywhere because there are needed at all times. In contrast, ESAs may not be allowed everywhere you go.
Places ESAs may not be allowed include:
- Airplanes: In 2021, the U.S. Department of Transportation made regulatory changes that do not allow ESAs to board flights free of charge. If you are traveling with your ESA, be sure to communicate with the airline.
- Classrooms: Unfortunately, ESAs may not be allowed in classrooms or other school settings.
- Restaurants: If the restaurant does not have a pet-friendly patio, it is likely your ESA will not be allowed. Only service dogs are allowed in these cases.
- Workplaces: Some employers may require you to complete an accommodation request before you can bring your ESA to the workplace.
Be sure to have your documentation certifying your animal as an ESA available. This can allow people to confirm that your animal is allowed to access certain areas.
Get Help With Lung Cancer Support Animals
Lung cancer treatment can be taxing for patients and their loved ones. Emotional support animals and service dogs may be a great option for lung cancer patients who need additional support.
Sadly, health insurance providers may not cover the costs of service animal adoption or training. However, you don’t have to handle these costs alone. Lung Cancer Group’s patient advocates may be able to help you get financial assistance for lung cancer.
Get a free case review and see if you qualify.
FAQs About Lung Cancer Support Animals
Can you get an emotional support animal for cancer?
Yes, cancer patients can get emotional support animals to help with a variety of symptoms. If you already have an animal, you can talk with your doctor to get them registered as an emotional support companion.
You can also consider adopting a trained service dog or having your dog undergo the training and certification process. Talk with your care team about what might be the best option for your needs during lung cancer treatment and recovery.
What do service dogs do for cancer patients?
Emotional support animals can help patients lower blood pressure and stress simply by being present together. Some trained service dogs can even help patients through physical therapy movements or alert others if they are in an emergency situation.
What is the best companion dog for cancer patients?
The best companion or therapy dog for cancer patients depends on the patient’s preferences and personality. While breeds may vary, it is important to keep temperament in mind when considering adopting a dog for emotional support.
For example, if you aren’t able to be as active through cancer treatment, a calm or low-energy dog might be better.
Can insurance cover the adoption cost for my support animal?
Unfortunately, health insurance may not cover the adoption cost for your support animal. Thankfully, there are resources to help. Some programs can help patients with the cost of a service animal if the patient qualifies.
Lung Cancer Group may also be able to help you secure financial assistance to pay for service animal training or adoption fees if your lung cancer was caused by asbestos. Call us at (877) 446-5767 today to see how we can help.