Can You Get a Service Dog for a Heart Condition?
Quite a few of us have had a dog steal our hearts, but did you know they can also save it? Dogs provide companionship and comfort. But for people who struggle with dangerous heart conditions, service dogs can also help monitor their heart condition.
Medical Alert Service Dogs
Medical alert service dogs—or more specifically, Cardiac Alert Dogs—are service dogs trained to detect anomalies in heartbeats and blood pressure changes. When a sudden change occurs, a cardiac alert dog can spot the difference and alert their owner to the danger.
Because cardiac alert dogs play such a vital role in saving lives, they must learn how to detect cardiac changes accurately. To achieve this training level, cardiac alert dogs spend years learning how to recognize changes in pulse patterns and blood pressure. Sometimes, their training starts as young puppies, with almost daily sessions devoted to identifying heart changes.
When significant changes are observed, a cardiac alert dog may get its owner’s attention through a designated “alert behavior,” like pawing at their owner or laying on the ground. For example, if a sudden spike in blood pressure is detected, a cardiac alert dog may bump its owner repeatedly with its head until its owner responds.
How Much Does a Medical Alert Dog Cost?
The costs for a service dog can vary, depending on whether you train the dog yourself or purchase a fully trained dog. Although training a service dog yourself is the cheapest way, the cost savings come at another price: time and effort. Training a service dog takes consistency, routine, and a lot of time.
If you’re looking to purchase a medical alert dog, you may pay anywhere from $10,000–$25,000 for a fully trained dog. It’s important to buy the dog from a legitimate organization because, quite literally, your life depends on the dog you buy.
Whether you choose to train a medical alert dog yourself or purchase one, it’s an investment in your future and health. Medical service dogs provide companionship and peace of mind that isn’t available anywhere else.
Which Breeds are Good Medical Alert Dogs?
When choosing a medical alert dog, the breed matters. A dog breed known for its excellent sense of smell and hearing is the best choice. Discerning changes in heartbeats and blood pressure not only takes a keens sense of smell and hearing, but it also requires a dog to be attentive and not easily distracted. The following breeds are tried and true medical alert service dog breeds:
Labrador Retrievers are one of the most popular dog breeds to have as pets, and they make ideal service dogs. Traditionally, Labrador Retrievers were bred as hunting dogs, which means they can follow directions and readily detect changes. A perceptive breed, Labrador Retrievers, are definitely up to the task of being a medical service dog.
Poodles aren’t just pretty to look at, but they’re also intelligent and eager to please. What’s more, they have a sharp sense of smell and are often used for tracking purposes. Poodles are also hypoallergenic dogs and are ideal for people who are allergic to dog fur and dander.
German Shepherds often function as police dogs because of their strong sense of smell, making them excellent medical service dogs. Along with their olfactory talents, German Shepherds are focused and calm. They don’t get distracted or rattled very easily and can stay on task for long periods. As medical service dogs, German Shepherds are a great option overall.
Finding Your Medical Alert Dog
If you’re interested in a medical alert or cardiac alert dog, speak with a licensed healthcare professional to see if one could benefit your situation. You may even qualify for discounts, grants, financial aid, veteran support, or donated service dogs if your physician recommends one. Depending on your environment and needs, finding the right service dog might take a bit of time. For example, a German Shepherd might make an excellent medical alert dog, but they’re not practical if you live in a small apartment or can’t afford the cost of care.
A medical service dog is a living animal and requires care and attention, just like a regular pet. They perform best when they have a solid bond with their owner. There are many factors to consider when searching for a medical service dog, and obtaining the right medical service dog is not easy, but it may save your life.
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