The Best Dog Breeds for Acute Stress Disorder

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woman with the definition of acute stress disorder and her emotional support animal

Acute stress disorder affects people who have recently experienced a traumatic event, and for that reason, it can be very difficult to prevent. Treatment options include therapy, medication, and, increasingly, emotional support animals to help patients cope with the effects of this condition.

Here, we’ll take a look at some of the best dog breeds for acute stress disorder, helping people to get the most benefit they can.

Understanding What Acute Stress Disorder Is

Acute stress disorder (ASD) is an emotional disorder that usually occurs in the month following a traumatic event like the death of a loved one or a close encounter with death or serious injury, for example, a serious car wreck.

People who have experienced acute stress disorder describe feelings of helplessness, horror, and intense fear, and the condition’s symptoms are often similar to those of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

These symptoms include:

  • Dissociation: feeling numb, detached or depersonalized
  • Persistently reliving the traumatic event,
  • Avoiding people, places, feelings or activities, leading to isolation
  • Anxiety: including irritability, trouble sleeping, or difficulty concentrating
  • It can often be very difficult for people with ASD to talk about the traumatic event that triggered the disorder.

5 Ways Dogs can Help People with an Acute Stress Reaction

Emotional support animals help their owners to overcome the symptoms of acute stress disorder in a number of ways, over and above simply providing a loving and calm presence. Here are five examples:

  1. When people are dissociating, having an emotional support dog there can help them to ground themselves in reality, for example by focusing on the feeling of petting the dog’s soft fur or listening to the sound of the dog’s breathing.
  2. If the person who experienced the traumatic event needs to talk about the event (for example, to testify in court or to report a crime) but finds it difficult to do so, having the calm presence of an ESA can help to make this task more manageable.
  3. An emotional support animal can help people to break out of negative repetitive thought patterns, such as rethinking the traumatic event over and over.
  4. The benefits of ESAs for anxiety are well proven by many scientific studies. Not only can they act as a calming presence, but they can also act as a distraction from negative thoughts.
  5. Having a pet of any kind, including an emotional support animal, will help you get into a good routine of feeding, walking, and playing together. For people with acute stress disorder who find it hard to focus or begin tasks, simple responsibilities like this can be very helpful.

Emotional Support Animals to the Rescue: ESAs can Help You Cope with a Nervous Breakdown

If left untreated, acute stress disorder can become exacerbated to the point where the person suffering from it is unable to function in their daily life. This may be temporary or may develop into longer-lasting conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder.

As well as the mental strain of living with high levels of stress, there can also be physical effects as well, including high blood pressure (which can lead to strokes and heart attacks), heart palpitations, changes in appetite, severe weight loss or gain, dry mouth, sweating, changes in sleep patterns, and more. Long-term, this can be very damaging to the body.

Luckily, in addition to treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy, antidepressants, and psychological interventions, emotional support animals have been proven to help with the symptoms of acute stress disorder.

Scientific studies have shown that being around dogs release “feel-good” hormones like serotonin and dopamine into the brain, while simultaneously blocking the stress-causing cortisol.

What’s more, most dog owners will tell you how they started exercising much more once they got their furry friend, and little has been shown to be as good for reducing stress levels as gentle, frequent exercise.

CertaPet’s Emotional Support Animal Letters can Help You Cope with Your Mental Illness

The most important step when getting an emotional support animal is to get an ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional. This is an official document that lasts for one year and serves as proof of your need for an emotional support animal.

The letter states that you have been diagnosed with a mental or emotional disability and that the animal is a necessary part of your treatment. It also contains details of the issuer’s license, to show that it is valid.

With a valid ESA letter, emotional support animal owners are able to enjoy important legal protections, including the right to bring their emotional support animals on into the cabins of commercial flights with them free of charge, and the right to keep an ESA in rented accommodation. This can be a huge help for people living with mental illnesses.

Get started with CertaPet’s free, 5-minute screening process to see if an emotional support animal could help you.

woman with reasonable accomdation in florida proof of animal for emotional support

So, What are the Best Dog Breeds for Acute Stress Disorder in People?

While any breed of dog can become an emotional support animal and help its owner in amazing ways, some breeds have certain characteristics that help to make them even better suited to help people with ASD. Let’s take a look at some of the best dog breeds for acute stress disorder:

The Beagle Puppy aka an Amazing Family Dog!

The Beagle is one of the smaller members of the hound family, with an average height of 13 to 15 inches. What these dogs lack in height they make up for in personality, however, and Beagles are known for their fun, playful, curious natures.

Beagles have lots of energy and need a fair bit of exercise: around an hour a day. This could be just the incentive someone with acute stress disorder needs to get out and about to take their mind off things.

Best Large Dog Breeds: The German Shepherds & Dobermans!

German Shepherds are often seen as one of the best dog breeds for acute stress disorder. These large dogs—and their cousins, the equally large Doberman—may look intimidating, but they are actually highly intelligent, gentle giants.

GSDs especially are prized for their trainability and eagerness to please, which is one of the reasons they make such popular police dogs. With the right training, a loyal Doberman or GSD is a large and calm enough presence to help break the negative thought spirals of acute stress disorder.

Golden Retriever & Labradors aka the Most Affectionate Dog Breeds

No list of the best dog breeds for acute stress disorder would be complete without the ever-popular retriever duo, the Labrador Retriever and the Golden Retriever.

These two loyal, loving breeds make the most popular service dogs, and with good reason.

Not only are they naturally well-tempered and gentle, but they are also intelligent and highly trainable. By the same logic, these two breeds both make excellent emotional support animals.

Most Calm Dog Breeds: The Shar-Pei, the Pug, and the King Charles Spaniel

Not all the best dog breeds for acute stress disorder are large: some tiny breeds make the list too! Although some smaller breeds have a reputation for being a little hyperactive, other little dog breeds were bred especially to have a sweet and docile temperament befitting close companion dogs.

Pugs, Shar-Pei’s and King Charles Spaniels were all bred as lapdogs, meaning that they thrive in close contact with humans and love nothing more than a cuddle.

Save a Life! Adopt a Dog From a Rescue

Sometimes the best dog breeds for acute stress disorder aren’t actually breeds at all, but adorable, mixed-breed dogs from shelters! Most animal shelters are full to bursting with loving dogs looking for a great home, so why not consider adopting your next ESA?

Animals in Shelters make the Best ESAs!

Not only is adopting an emotional support animal from a shelter a good way to make a difference to dogs in need, but it can also mean getting a really great emotional support animal. Most shelters will be keen to match adopters with suitable dogs, taking into account lifestyle, age, exercise and more before matching families with dogs.

If you let a shelter know that you’re planning to keep the dog as an ESA, they’ll help to match you with a suitable dog that perfectly fits your needs. Sometimes it is easier to judge an adult dog’s temperament than it is for puppies, which can change as they grow.

Do You Think You have Acute Stress Disorder? Why Wait! Connect with CertaPet Today!

Now that we’ve covered the best dog breeds for acute stress disorder, the next step to getting an emotional support animal is to connect with a licensed mental health professional in your state.

CertaPet can help to put you in contact with a hand-picked selection of mental health professionals local to you, and after a consultation, you could get your ESA letter in as little as 48 hours!

woman playing with her top dog breeds esa

Common Questions on the Best Dog Breeds for Acute Stress Disorder

What causes acute stress disorder?

Is a German Shepherd a good breed for an ESA?

How can ESAs help with acute stress disorder?

Which small dog breeds make good ESAs for acute stress disorder?

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