Can service dogs help patients with Lyme disease and other chronic illnesses?

Service dogs help patients with Lyme disease and other chronic illnesses

Patients with all types of illnesses and disabilities, from cancer to autoimmune diseases to fibromyalgia, have reported great comfort in having a service dog at their side. In a recent article, Rodriguez and colleagues examined how effective a service dog can be in improving the lives of patients suffering from physical disabilities or chronic illness.¹

Click here to watch a 13 second video of a Lyme patient with a service dog

Service dogs, the authors explain, can assist people with functional physical disabilities, such as the visually impaired or individuals who require diabetic or epileptic monitoring. “Mobility service dogs can assist those with physical disabilities by performing tasks such as retrieving dropped items, opening doors, or pulling a wheelchair,” writes Rodriguez.

In addition, service dogs may be helpful for an owner’s psychosocial health and quality of life. “Since receiving a service dog, [individuals] require less assistance from others, have more confidence and self-esteem, and are more able to participate in social activities.”

“Individuals with both physical and “invisible” disabilities are often subject to social isolation, low self-esteem, and significant challenges when navigating their social environment,” the authors point out.

The authors looked at 97 people who were placed with a mobility or medical service dog. Individuals’ disabilities were primarily seizure disorders, musculoskeletal disorders, or neuromuscular disorders.

[bctt tweet=”Can service dogs help patients with chronic Lyme disease? ” username=”DrDanielCameron”]

They compared the results with 57 individuals who were placed on a waiting list for a mobility or medical service dog.

“Service dogs were primarily purebred or crosses between Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers and Standard Poodles,” Rodriguez explains.

The study results were mixed. Compared to those on the waitlist, “individuals with a service dog exhibited significantly better psychosocial health including higher social, emotional, and work/school functioning.”

But, “there was no significant effect of having a service dog on anger, companionship, or sleep disturbance.”

The authors did not find the presence of a pet to be a factor. In fact, there were more pets in the control group than the treatment group (65% vs. 45%, respectively).

Editor’s question: Some Lyme disease patients in my practice have reported the benefits of having a service dog. Have you found a service dog helpful for Lyme disease?

  1. Rodriguez KE, Bibbo J, O’Haire ME. The effects of service dogs on psychosocial health and wellbeing for individuals with physical disabilities or chronic conditions. Disabil Rehabil. 2019:1-9.

4 Replies to "Can service dogs help patients with Lyme disease and other chronic illnesses?"

  • Linda Hewitt
    11/25/2021 (5:18 am)

    I am a 70 year old female with late Lyme disease. I have a hard time walking. My self esteem is very low to the point I do not want to go out.

  • Allie
    06/06/2020 (3:20 pm)

    Yes! My service dog has been wonderful. She helps with mobility and does psychiatric alert for me (panic attacks and anxiety). If my heart rate rises from co-infections or from psychological things that got worse with my Lyme, she alerts and does deep pressure therapy before it gets too bad to slow my heart rate down. She also helps with mobility which is huge because a majority of my pain is in my lower back, hips, knees, and ankles. She’ll “brace” so if I was down on the ground I can use her to steady myself to get back up if I don’t have something to hold on to, and she helps with stairs.
    As for other chronic illnesses, I have friends with service dogs for their chronic disabilities/illnesses and they also agree that having a service dog has greatly improved their quality of life.

    • Lisa
      08/19/2020 (2:21 pm)

      It is so great to hear that your service dog has been able to help with those things. I have late stage Lyme disease and have many of the same symptoms that impact my life. I’m getting a puppy in a few months and would like to train it to help me with bracing and heart rate monitoring as well. Did you train yourself or work with a trainer? Any info on how to get started would be really appreciated!

  • Ginger Davis
    06/03/2020 (3:54 pm)

    We are currently awaiting a service dog for our grand daughter who is 14. We have been given the tentative month of August 2020 for her dog. She has been treated for neurological lyme, encephalopathy and a whole number of other diagnoses. She has mobility issues along with a paralyzed lower arm and hand. While she has progressed much in the last year, she was as others, was misdiagnosed for years. She discontinued IV antibiotics in January this year. after about a year of taking them. We are hoping that the service dog can assist her in her daily activities and school. We still have hope that she will regain function in her arm and hand. If anyone has experienced long term paralysis from lyme, any recommendations are welcome. Will provide feedback related to the service dog after we get him/her.

Join the Lyme Conversation
(Note: comments are moderated. You will see your comment after it has been reviewed.)

Some html is OK