An emotional support animal, or ESA, is simply another name for an animal that provides therapeutic benefits to its owner through companionship and affection. However, Emotional Support Animals are not always easy to take care of. You can take several steps to ensure that your four-legged companion stays healthy and happy, so you can reap the rewards of an ESA’s unconditional love and support! Here are 8 ways to take care of your Emotional Support Animal
1) Get them Health Insurance
While ESA’s aren’t covered by any government agency, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t provide them with insurance. If your dog is injured in a public place, its medical bills could be astronomical. It might be wise to buy an extra insurance policy for your dog (or cat). The ESA Travel Act allows emotional support animals to fly free of charge with their owners on U.S. airlines—but not internationally, so if you plan on traveling abroad, it’s probably best to get pet health insurance anyways. This is especially true if you adopt from another country—healthcare costs can be incredibly high there, and they vary widely depending on where exactly you go.
- Only a 3-minute examination will be enough. Please respond to a few questions concerning your ESA requirements.
- Make an appointment with a therapist. We’ll put you in touch with a specialist in your area.
- Get your ESA letter in the mail. It will be sent within 24 hours after approval.
2) Give Them Vacations
You can’t vacation with your emotional support animal, but you can give them some time off. Consider giving it a little break whether your ESA is a dog or cat. The Humane Society recommends having your pet stay at a friend or family member’s house for a few days every week so that you can have Time without them. When they get home, reward them with extra treats and affection. You may not be able to take an extended vacation, but providing little breaks from each other will benefit you in different ways—and that’s just as important as getting away together.
3) Snuggle With Them
Many service animals, and ESAs, were bred specifically as support animals. Although they may look a little different from dogs bred as pets, cuddling with an ESA can bring you a surprising amount of comfort. Whether your ESA came from a shelter or was purchased through an agency that trains assistance animals, snuggling is probably on their list of favorite things to do! Be sure not to overdo it; you and your new best friend need Time to adjust. And be sure not to substitute Time spent with your ESA for Time in therapy if you struggle with depression or anxiety—that’s what they’re here for!
4) Feed Them Well
There are many ways you can take care of your emotional support animal while they’re with you. These pets require a lot of attention, which includes providing them with nutritious food. If your ESA has no dietary restrictions, ensure they get fresh water and high-quality pet food every day. Remember that an undernourished emotional support animal will feel sluggish and unwell—which is unpleasant for you both and potentially dangerous on long car trips or plane rides. Make sure your furry companion gets lots of exercises: if they don’t get enough activity, their health could suffer as well as yours!
5) Train Them To Help You
To get your emotional support animal to help you in a crisis, you first need to train it. You can train your ESA using operant conditioning or classical conditioning; whichever method works best for you. Training may not be as easy as it sounds, and even once you’ve completed your training, handling an anxious and distressed pet can be difficult. Make sure you’re prepared by working on any skills or tools that will help you in a crisis. For example, if one of your strategies is to talk things through, simply writing out some scripts ahead of Time could be handy when having a stressful conversation with someone else becomes unmanageable.
6) Walk them
It might seem obvious, but it’s easy to forget about your furry friend if you leave them at home all day. So be sure to take Fido on a walk during lunch or after work every day. And try not to leave them alone too much, because they also need social interaction. Most importantly, remember that you are responsible for taking care of Fido and ensuring he stays healthy and happy. Think of yourself as a dog sitter! You wouldn’t just lock your house up with a pet inside and never come back—so make sure you have someone check in on your dog once in a while while you’re away.
7) Spend Time with them
Many emotional support animals are trained to provide comfort in times of stress, and Spending Time with them helps reduce that stress. Additionally, growing research suggests pets can improve our physical and mental health, so you must find ways to incorporate your pet into your daily life. Make sure you take them on walks or engage in physical activity with them. They don’t have to go jogging with you (though many owners enjoy doing so). Even simple things like walking around your neighborhood or playing fetch in a park will be beneficial because they help socialize and bond with your pet. It’s also an excellent way for Fido or Fluffy to get exercise!
8) Give Them Toys
Pets need a job. Dogs especially, because they’re pack animals and have a natural inclination to take on roles in that hierarchy. If you bring home a new puppy, they’ll quickly look to you as their leader (even if you don’t want it). As such, it’s important that your pup feels like they have something productive to do. This is where toys come in. By giving them an outlet for playtime and exercise, they will feel more satisfied with themselves—which will translate into being less likely to bark at strangers or pee on your carpet when left alone in your apartment.
Thank you for reading our guide on caring for your emotional support animal. Suppose you are interested in adding a pet to your family but also have specific needs. In that case, we recommend consulting with a professional who can guide you through choosing an appropriate pet. A behavioral specialist should be able to help you ensure that any animal is safe fit, which will make sure that everyone in your home is as happy and healthy as possible. Having an emotional support animal (ESA) isn’t easy. Still, with these tips in mind, we hope that you’ll be able to enjoy all of their benefits without sacrificing safety or hygiene!