Who Can Apply for a Medical Alert Dog

A young lady is walking down the street towards her class.  She has a dog beside her that helps assist her because she is not able to see.  One minute she is fine, the next she slips and falls.  Her medical service dog realizes what has happened and snuggles up next to her to get her attention and let her know that he or she is not going anywhere is comforting her.

After a few moments, she realized what happened and is pain from falling down so hard on the ice patch.  She does not know what to do because she does not remember whether it was because of the ice that she fell or if because there was a change in her blood sugar that could have possibly made her faint.  She tries to drink a juice that she packed in the coat pocket of her dog as well as trying to eat something since she feels weak.

Now what?  Thanks to her service dog, she is able to get the medical attention she needs because she can press the button on her medical alert system that she wears around her neck.  But she is not alone, her service dog is right there by her side, comforting her, even when the ambulance comes to take her to the hospital.

Everyone has seen a service dog at least once in their lives.  They are canine friends to those who need them and have usually wear some sort of coat on them that says to not pet them because if they do get petted, then they send a message to their owner that something bad is about to happen.  In their coat, they usually will have bottles that are for the person if they have something happen to them.  Service dogs can be seen everywhere; in malls, on sidewalks, on college campuses for students who need them, at work place, just to name a few.

What is a service dog?

A service dog, according to servicedogsofamerica.org, is a dog that is specifically trained to detect certain changes in a person and then seek medical attention by snuggling up to their partner when something is about to occur so the person knows that they need to either get preventative care, be able to press an alert button, find a member of the family by name and scent, or be of comfort until help arrives. The dog hardly ever leaves the side of the handler and is a bond that lasts a lifetime.

The dogs are trained to detect the following changes:

  • Changes in respiration rate
  • Changes in behavior
  • Changes in person’s odor

But who is eligible to get a service dog?

The following is a list, according to pleasedontpetme.com

  • Those that experience changes in blood sugar
  • Those that experience changes in blood pressure
  • Those that have seizures
  • Those that have syncope (fainting)
  • Those that have migraines
  • Those who are blind
  • Those who are deaf

How does the service dog know when something is going to happen?

Other than the detection in changes in the handler, it said between the two websites as well as others that the dog just has the instinct to know when something is going with their handler.  And once the dog as well as person has identified that something will happen, the dog gave enough warning to where that person can move into a location where it will be safe for them.  While getting preventative care is important, sometimes the attack happens.  For those that have seizures, it may scare the dog but if the trainer is calm, so will the dog.

How are the dogs trained?

The dogs training vary from person to person, depending upon the condition that they have.  For example the training of a dog for someone who has diabetes will be different then the training of a dog for syncope.  The difference will be that with the diabetes person, there will be changes in blood sugar and it will either be too high or too low.  With someone that has syncope, they will have changes in blood pressure rising too high then dropping too low.  The dog will have to be trained to figure out what is going on.

Along with that, the trainer and dog will have to figure out what signals work the best for them to be able to communicate with each other.  For example, for someone who is blind, the best way might be for them to be pawed a certain amount of times to know something is going versus someone with diabetes.  In the diabetes case, the dog would be trained to simply come over to them with food and or drink and nudge them with their nose in their arm to let them know that they need to eat and or drink.

How can someone apply for a service dog?

  • Go to servicedogsforamerica.org
  • Along the top is a menu go to apply
  • Click on the first option, apply for a service dog
  • Click on eligibility requirements
  • Download that and read it
  • Then click on Procedure of Application
  • Download that and read it
  • Then click on Preliminary Application
  • Download it
  • Fill it out
  • Mail the application to the address that is listed on the website below the entire list of links you clicked on.

After that, there is a waiting period of 30 days before finding out whether the application was approved or denied.  If it was accepted, then the time to get a service dog is 18 to 24 months.

All requirements for eligibility are in the Eligibility requirements PDF and the Procedure of Application is in PDF as well.

For more information about service dogs and what they are as well as what they are about, visit Service Dogs for America as well as Please Don’t Pet Me.  Both sites have excellent information for those that think that having a service dog will benefit them in the future.

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