If you’ve ever had a bad day that got turned around after interacting with your pet, you may have inadvertently received emotional support – it’s one of the most powerful and positive effects of having a loving pet in your life. Did you know that the emotional support your pets can offer isn’t only recognised in pet-loving circles, but in medical circles too?

Pooches, naturally, top the list.

In A Dog for Depression? we explored how dogs can be ‘prescribed’ as part of treatment for depression, but isn’t as simple as your GP suggesting you cuddle your puppy more.

A pet is only officially an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) and forms part of your treatment once a qualified mental health professional has diagnosed a human patient with a clinical condition like depression.

Alvarado Parkway Institute highlights what it takes for a pet to be considered an ESA:

  • The animal must be certified.
  • Certifications for animal companions typically come through a physician, psychiatrist, social worker, or other mental health professional.
  • These professionals must confirm and provide support that the animal alleviates one or more symptoms of an existing disability.

The kinds of conditions that ESAs may assist with include (but are not limited to):

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Learning disabilities
  • Attention deficit disorder (ADD)
  • Chronic stress
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

While man’s (and woman’s!) best friend, the dog, is usually the first choice for an ESA, other popular pets include:

  • Cats
  • Birds
  • Rabbits
  • Fish
  • Rodents

Although they need to be ‘prescribed’, ESAs aren’t officially trained. So, if they’re not trained the way service animals like Search & Rescue dogs are, how do they help?

It’s a matter of interdependence: Both humans and animals thrive off positive interaction and attention. Put the two together and there’s more love to go around.

When someone cares for another living creature, he or she often feels important and needed – a pet needs food, water, a clean shelter, regular exercise, attention and medical care. Having another creature depend on you may inspire motivation and necessitate action.

They may also feel more sociable, have a stronger sense of self-esteem, feel safer and more comforted, experience increased purpose, and suffer less of the broader symptoms of their diagnosed illness.

Alvarado Parkway Institute continues that ESAs “act as home healthcare for those who are struggling with a mental illness.”

Broader research supports it: the Institute shows that patients display a normalized heart rate, blood pressure, and reduced depression thanks to ESAs, and the  Journal of Evidence-Informed Social Work shows an 82% reduction in PTSD symptoms after a single week with an ESA.

The positive effects are even more applicable in lockdown.

“With so many changes happening right now,” Alvarado Parkway Institute points out, “with government decisions, social distancing, quarantine, and shut down businesses, people are feeling overwhelmed. “

The Institute explains that patients with ESAs often take comfort in the fact that their pet doesn’t experience change the same way they do.

While a pet may sense something is up because you’re home more often, they don’t engage with the world the way you do, and witnessing them get on with life as normal in the ‘new normal’ can be uplifting for a human taking strain in trying times.

Your pet takes care of you, and we take care of the vet’s bills. Protect your unofficial ESA, also known as your paw-tner in care, with pet insurance. Get a quick quote now!