An emotional support animal is a pet that aids you in your time of need. They can be an enormous source of comfort when you are feeling down or having trouble dealing with life. At the same time, it is essential to remember that care is a two-way street.
You need to take good care of your ESA so that they can continue to be strong, healthy, and happy. Considering how much you owe them, this is the least you can do. If you want a comprehensive guide on how to manage this, then you have come to the right place. Here are all the things you will need to do to properly care for your emotional support animal.
Be Aware That Each Breed Has Different Needs
This is something you should think about before getting your ESA. Now, the two most common emotional support animals are dogs and cats. Of course, there are no limitations on what species your pet needs to be. There are plenty of people that choose birds, fish, and even lizards!
However, it is important to keep in mind that every animal has different needs and preferences. These occur between breeds as well. For instance, some dogs may be quite content to live in a smaller space like an apartment. Then again, there are other breeds that need lots of space and exercise to be comfortable.
So, before you select your ESA, make sure to identify its needs and determine whether it will fit with your lifestyle. You will then find it a lot easier to tend to your pet’s needs. Not to mention, it is the only way both of you will be happy.
Get a License
Did you know that emotional service animals can receive certifications? All you need is a letter from a doctor or mental health professional explaining that you require an ESA. After this, it is a matter of finding the right service to help you get your support pet licensed.
One of the reasons you should do this is because you will often find it easier to have a certified ESA. In particular, you are less likely to meet resistance when looking for a new place to live. Not to mention, most airlines will be required to allow your emotional support animal onboard as well. So, to make sure that your pet goes everywhere with you, get them licensed.
The last thing you want is for your emotional support pet to get lost. It can be quite dangerous out there for them, especially if they aren’t used to such environments. Due to this, you should really consider chipping as one of the options of keeping your cat or dog tracked at all times. This is especially important for cats who are able to slip off their collars rather easily.
If you don’t like the idea of a microchip, make sure your cat or dog is fitted with a collar, complete with a tag. The tag should contain your phone number and address. This way, if they do wander off, they will be promptly returned to you.
Select the Right Food
The first thing you need to know is that not all pet food is the same. There are quite a number of “popular” brands that are just filled with empty ingredients like wheat and grain. What pets like cats and dogs need is protein, the right combination of vitamins and minerals, and high-quality carbohydrates. So, you need to be careful about what you select.
Your vet can go a long way in helping you narrow down which food is the best. If you aren’t happy with their recommendations, though, it is time to do some research of your own. Focus on brands that are committed to natural and wholesome ingredients. You will discover that there are even those that offer organic foods.
You may also want to consider any allergies that cats and dogs may typically have and stay away from foods that contain these ingredients. At the very least, make sure to monitor your pet once a new food has been introduced to identify how their bodies are reacting to it.
Fresh Supply of Water
If your pooch or kitty’s diet is largely made up of dry food, then you need to make sure that they get enough water. Now, for the most part, dogs aren’t too fussy when it comes to water. As long as you leave a fresh bowl of water out, they will lap it up throughout the day.
The same can’t be said for cats, though. These animals often only drink water if it is incredibly fresh – otherwise, they will turn their nose up at it. This is why it is a good idea to invest in a good water fountain. This device will keep recycling the water so that it is always fresh and clean.
Set Up Their Environment
Remember, it isn’t just your home – it’s your support animal’s as well. Therefore, you need to take the necessary steps to ensure that they are safe and comfortable at all times. To start with, you should make sure that the area is safe. After all, you won’t always be at home with your pet.
Pets – especially young ones – have a tendency to chew or eat anything they find. This makes it all the more important for you to keep medication and other harmful substances out of their reach. Similarly, put away anything that may hurt your pet, should it be swallowed.
Another aspect to focus on is their sleeping arrangements. Now, you may find it comforting to have your ESA sleep near you at night. If so, you should set up a bed either on your own bed or near where you sleep. If you would rather that they slept elsewhere, ensure that the area is warm or cool (depending on the season) and that they have a designated spot to sleep on.
Give Them Proper Attention and Exercise
Similar to how you need attention when you are going through a rough time, your ESA also needs loving. This is something that remains constant with all species and breeds. Even cats that appear to be quite independent will benefit from petting and affection.
In addition to attention, virtually all animals need exercise. Therefore, you need to make sure that there is an outlet for them, regardless of their species. After all, even guinea pigs need to get a workout! With smaller animals, this task is a lot easier.
However, when you have dogs, you are going to have to make more effort to give them exercise. Make sure that you take your pup for a walk at least once a day. This will help to expend their pent-up energy and maintain healthy body weight. Not to mention, it is good for you too!
Keep Them Occupied While You Are Away
Now, emotional support animals and their owners have a deeper bond, in general. So, when you are away, it is quite likely that your pet will miss you quite a bit. At the very least, they may end up rather bored.
For the most part, cats won’t mind being left alone, as long as they have some outlet for their energy such as toys or outdoor space. Pups, however, can be a bit trickier to deal with as they are much closer to their owners.
So, try to keep them occupied for as much of the day as possible. Toys can go a long way in ensuring that they are busy. If you are really worried about leaving your pooch alone, though, doggy daycare is also an excellent option. In case you don’t mind more company, another pooch can certainly help the situation as well.
Pay Attention to Grooming
If you have a cat or dog, then grooming is an important part of your routine. Regular grooming keeps your pet healthy and happy and can prevent a multitude of problems. Now, cats tend to do a pretty good job of cleaning themselves. Still, it is important to use a suitable brush on a regular basis to prevent shedding.
With dogs, you will need to stay on top of the brushing as well as bathing. So, how often should you bathe your pooch? Well, that does depend on a number of factors. Indoor dogs often need to be bathed less while those that roll around in the dirt need to be washed off more frequently. Unless your pup begins to smell, try to give him or her a bath at least once in three months.
Stay Up-to-Date on Vet Visits
Last, but certainly not least, you should stay up-to-date on vet visits. This is especially important for various vaccinations and treatments. Going to the vet when you are supposed to can considerably increase the lifespan of your pet.
On a similar note, make sure to always make a note of your pet’s eating, pooping, and behavior habits. If you notice that anything is amiss, book a vet’s appointment immediately. It is always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your ESA.
These are the top tips that you need to remember when caring for your emotional support animal. If you take good care of them, you can be sure that they will care well for you too.
Tasha Williams has worked with service animals, emotional support animals, and therapy dogs for several years. During her tenure, she has consulted with associated services like USServiceAnimals to help people with disabilities lead better lives. Tasha has been instrumental in pairing the right pets with their owners.