Q: What pets are good for people with anxiety?
Finding the right emotional support animal (ESA) will depend on the severity of the anxiety disorder you are suffering from, your living situation and prior experience with animals. However, when you find the perfect match, the results are rewarding and your chosen pet becomes a companion and a beloved member of the family.
The role of an ESA is to provide comfort, companionship and emotional support for those suffering from a range of mental health concerns such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and attention deficit disorder. It is also possible to bring an ESA into the home to assist with family members who may have autism, Asperger’s syndrome, bipolar disorder or cognitive disorders, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s.
An ESA is typically welcomed into the home as a supplementary treatment when a person is also receiving other forms of therapy as part of their wellness treatment. In cases where someone is suffering from severe mental health concerns, we would recommend getting in touch with a trained positive animal behaviourist who is experienced in preparing ESAs to become part of the family. Here is a list of breeds we would recommend considering to be your ESA.
Golden Retriever/Labrador: The intelligence and kind character of both of these breeds make them perfect ESAs.
German Shepherds: Extremely adaptable, intelligent, loving, loyal and protective.
Yorkshire Terrier: Can ease the symptoms of depression and are known to have been used as therapy dogs. Their small size also makes them a great choice if you live in an apartment.
It is important to remember that the temperament of the individual dog, not just the breed, matters.
Cats are another great ESA option. We recommend choosing a people-orientated breed, such as a Siamese, Ragdoll, British Shorthair or Tonkinese, as they are affectionate and quickly build a strong bond with their owners.
Before selecting your ESA, speak to your mental health specialist and your vet to help you decide which type of ESA is right for you.
Dr Sara Elliott is director of veterinary services at British Veterinary Hospital. Got a problem? Our fantastic panel of renowned experts is available to answer all your questions related to fashion, well-being, nutrition, finance and hypnotherapy. Email your queries to firstname.lastname@example.org.