Dogs help make the world a better place with their happy faces and loyal personalities. They can also serve an important role for people with certain medical conditions. Dogs can be trained to help provide assistance for people with unpredictable conditions like narcolepsy.
Keep reading for seven things to know about service dogs for narcolepsy and other medical conditions.
The term “service dog” covers a range of skills, talents, and specialties. Here are a few common service dog categories:
While dogs aren’t the only animals able to serve and protect, they are the only species provided special protections by the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).
Narcolepsy is a rare sleep disorder affecting approximately 1 in 2,000 people. While stimulants and other drugs that help treat narcolepsy symptoms can improve your quality of life, so can a well-trained, four-legged canine friend.
Here are several ways service dogs can help if you have narcolepsy:
Narcolepsy service dogs can also fetch medication, position themselves in front of you so you fall on them instead of the hard ground during a narcoleptic episode, and so much more. If you have specific tasks you need help with, discuss those with your service-dog training team.
Several organizations in the United States train assistance dogs. While some specialize in emotional support animals, others train dogs who guide people with blindness or who perform specific tasks for people with other types of disabilities.
If you’re interested in a support dog for narcolepsy, nonprofit organizations like New Hope Assistance Dogs or Paws With a Cause may be able to help. Depending on where you live, what type of service dog help you need, and other eligibility requirements, an organization may encourage you to fill out an application or refer you elsewhere.
Eligibility requirements vary by organization, but may include:
Training often takes two years or more, and service dogs can be expensive. Those from New Hope Assistance Dogs cost an average of $25,000 to raise and train. The person getting the dog pays $18,000 of that while the organization covers the rest. Some people with narcolepsy ask friends and family to help offset the cost with online fundraisers.
Paws With a Cause does not charge for their dogs, which they estimate cost $35,000 to raise and train. However, these dogs are also likely to be in higher demand. Paws With a Cause encourages recipients to pay it forward by fundraising for the organization.
If you find an organization that can meet your needs, ask about qualifications, expenses, and the availability of ongoing support before applying.
While any dog can be a trained assistance dog, some breeds are better suited than others. Your narcolepsy service dog should be smart, loyal, friendly, attentive, and calm under pressure.
According to the American Kennel Club, five of the most popular service dog breeds are:
When considering dog breeds, remember that in addition to performing specific tasks and helping you stay safe, your dog will likely become a beloved family member. Choose a breed you enjoy. If you need help deciding, ask a dog trainer or veterinarian for their professional opinion.
Service dogs, just like their owners, are protected by the law. Before you pack your bags and head off on vacation, familiarize yourself with the Americans With Disabilities Act. Knowing which rules and allowances apply to you and your canine companion when traveling can make your journey a smooth one.
The ADA defines a service animal as “a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability. The task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person’s disability.”
If your dog qualifies under that description, they should be allowed to accompany you on airplanes, trains, and other modes of transportation. They should also be permitted inside restaurants and other businesses that have a “no pets” policy.
While your dog is allowed to stay by your side under the ADA, it’s always a good idea to check with your airline or other travel provider to ensure you follow their guidelines and have a smooth experience for all.
Some businesses and nonprofits sell certificates, vests, harnesses, and other service animal identifiers online. However, neither the ADA nor the U.S. Department of Justice recognize them as official proof that your dog is a service animal.
Employees at restaurants, hotels, and other businesses legally cannot ask for certification or proof that your dog is a service animal. They also cannot require you to demonstrate your dog’s specific tasks or explain your disability.
According to the ADA, people can only ask you two questions about your dog:
If you think a business has treated you or your narcolepsy service dog unfairly or violated ADA protections, you can file a complaint with the Department of Justice.
If you’re interested in learning more about service dogs for narcolepsy or have questions about other resources that may be available to you, start by having a conversation with your health care provider. When you communicate your needs and ask for support, your medical team can make referrals and connect you with care providers and resources. Sometimes, all it takes to improve your quality of life and well-being is to get the ball rolling by asking for the help you need.
MyNarcolepsyTeam is the social network for people with narcolepsy and their loved ones. On MyNarcolepsyTeam, more than 10,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with narcolepsy.
Do you have a service dog for narcolepsy? Are you thinking about getting one? Share your experience in the comments below or on your Activities page.