How Pets Can Help Fibromyalgia Patients

How Pets Can Help Fibromyalgia Patients

Through the Fog

Many women I know and talk with who have fibromyalgia have shared their experiences with having a pet. It seems that cats and dogs can be very sensitive to our pain. They are more apt to cuddle and be near us when our pain levels are higher. My dog stays near me all day and will curl up at my feet when I’m having a hard day.

Having conversations with others and sharing funny stories about our pets can help keep the focus off our pain. Not to mention that laughter is very good medicine. Having a dog also forces you to get outside and get in a little exercise. I enjoy walking my dog first thing in the morning; it helps to wake me up and energize me a little. I keep it to just five minutes at a time.

Furry pets can be such great companions, and it’s helpful to have one or two to have to take care of. If you live alone, they can be great company. You develop a routine of feeding, bathing, and caring for them, giving you a sense of responsibility and accomplishment. They can truly fill a hole in your heart.

Research has shown that pets help to reduce pain levels, raise those feel-good endorphins, and even lower blood pressure. They help to reduce anxiety and depression in some people, and provide a never-ending source of unconditional love. They can be a great source of comfort and joy.

According to the ADA (American Disabilities Act), you can get a service dog if you have fibromyalgia, as fibromyalgia patients are considered disabled under ADA standards. That may be something to look into in your state, as it would allow a trained service dog to go with you everywhere: work, restaurants, church, etc.

Xolos are a Mexican breed of hairless dogs known for their intense body heat. Placing your dog on or near a body part that is currently experiencing pain has proven to be very beneficial. One woman with wrist pain recounted placing her wrist under the dog’s tummy and, within 15 minutes, her pain was gone.

It can be so socially and emotionally isolating having a chronic illness — pets can help to keep you safer and feeling unconditionally loved. It doesn’t matter if it’s a cat, a dog, a rabbit, a horse, or a hamster. If you don’t currently have a pet, I would strongly encourage you to find one that you will enjoy, and that fits within your ability to care for. If your pet is a service dog, you can have one even if your current living situation doesn’t allow pets.

Speaking from personal experience, I feel so much less alone with my dog for a companion. When she’s not laying on my bed, she’s under my bed. She stays close to wherever I am.

Do you have a pet? I’d love to hear about your experience.

Note: Fibromyalgia News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Fibromyalgia News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to fibromyalgia. 


  1. Judy says:

    Just this weekend when I was having a serious fibro flare, I told my boyfriend that I needed my dog Tater to cuddle me. As soon as she came into my room, she was right beside me. Even though she adores my boyfriend, there were times she would not leave my side–even when he called her. She is a tremendous comfort. I lost my dog Tanner a couple of years ago, but she earned the name Nurse Tanner because no matter what the problem, she automatically snuggled up to comfort me. I didn’t even have to call her. She just knew.

  2. Service Dog Handler says:

    First, there is no disease that automatically makes one fall under the ADA; just having a diagnosis doesn’t make one disabled. Not everyone with fibro is disabled. In order to be disabled for a service dog, you must have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, such as seeing, walking, hearing, caring for self, etc.

    Second, service dogs are not pets, nor are comfort or emotional support animals. In order for a dog to be an SD for your disability, it must be individually trained to do work or perform tasks that directly relate to your disability. Snuggling, placing your dog on your body for warmth, etc. does not make your dog a service dog. A service dog needs to be trained to do something for you that you have trouble doing yourself, such as guide a person with visual impairment, alert to sounds for someone with hearing impairment, alert to medical episodes like seizures or diabetic lows/highs, retrieve items for someone who has trouble walking and/or bending over, help a mobility-impaired person with balance/walking, etc. Service dog training takes up to two years to finish and not all dogs have what it takes to be a service dog.

    Thirdly, churches are exempt from the ADA, so you cannot take a service dog there unless the pastor okays it, which does not always happen (though I have personally never had a problem with that and my service dogs).

    Having a service dog is a hugely life-changing decision, as you will have to deal with all sorts of comments and questions about your invisible disability from strangers, businesses who will tell you that your dog cannot come in (they’re breaking the law), the toughness of bringing a dog everywhere (it is not as fun as it seems), and more. You can say goodbye to short trips to the store, as a billion people will interrupt you or try to distract your dog by petting or talking to it. People have lost friends and family over the decision to take a service dog out with them. You have to think about pottying the dog, keeping the dog cool/warm in extreme temperatures, the dog’s comfort, etc. It can be difficult, but rewarding – but in no way is it an easy decision that can be made after reading an article about pets.

    • Robin Dix says:

      Jenny, mentioning about looking into a service dog was a very small part of my article. I’m well aware of the limitations and that they are not considered pets. The majority of my article was talking about the benefits of having a pet.

      • Jenny V. says:

        I agree. Nowhere did it say you were promoting getting a service dog as the solution. It was merely a very brief mention. Seems like that was an extremely negative – and unnecessary – response without warrant.

        Thank you, Robin, for your piece. Based on my symptoms my doctors think I’ve suffered from fibro for more than 30 years now (I’m 45) so I’m constantly reading articles like yours for support and encouragement since I don’t know anyone personally that has it. Although I have a very supportive husband and family, sometimes it’s more helpful for me to find people that can relate to exactly what I’m going through.

        Now that I know you have a blog I look forward to following you there as well.

        Gentle hugs,
        (a different) Jenny

        • Service Dog Handler says:

          There’s no such thing as certifying an animal as an emotional support animal; any site that does that is a scam. Same with registering a service dog: scam. No registration or certification is required by law nor does the government recognize any registration or certification, for both emotional support animals and service dogs. What makes an animal an emotional support animal is a doctor’s letter that states the person has a mental disability that is actually helped by the presence of the animal. Emotional support animals are allowed in no-pets housing and airplanes (though the law may soon change to disallow them on planes because too many people are faking their pets as emotional support animals and causing problems). Emotional support animals are not task-trained, just there for comfort and such. They are not service animals. Service dogs are trained to do tasks that directly relate to the disability (guiding a blind person, alerting an epileptic before seizures, removing someone with a disabling panic attack from the situation, etc.), which is why they are allowed almost everywhere (not allowed in restaurant kitchens, not allowed in operating rooms, churches are exempt from the law, etc.). While some programs and trainers do certify their teams, it is not required by the law nor recognized by the government and businesses cannot ask to see such paperwork.

    • Debi says:

      My GSD had some training as a service dog. However, her owner died and her kids were both abusive and neglectful (they left her caged with her sister to die). She does understand the needs I have although she’s never been certified or even gone through all the training. She knows my pain levels it seems. She will not leave my side and will go get my husband if I ask her too.. or grab a blanket if I can’t move. I can’t teach her the things that I do need – like retrieving a phone when I drop it or can’t reach it because of a fall.
      Tell me, how does one apply for a SD? What are the guidelines for needing/getting one?
      I was also told that as a SD no one else could be loving on her but as her owner, I should be. It builds the trust that is needed for the bond to be successful. Is this true?

      • Service Dog Handler says:

        Hi, Debi. How sad that your dog was abused like that! So glad she survived!

        Assuming she still has the right temperament to become a service dog, you can train her yourself, have a private trainer help you train her (such as having training sessions once or twice a week), or have a private trainer do all the training while your dog lives with the trainer (board-and-train). Obviously, there are costs to consider when using a trainer, but IMO it is worth it as I have gone both routes before (and doing all the training myself didn’t work for me). There are a few books on service dog training, such as the “Teamwork” books, and I am sure you can find generic training videos, like how to train a retrieve (but be sure it is a soft-mouth working retrieve, not a play fetch) on YouTube and the like. Retrieving is one of the tasks my service dogs have done for me and that includes retrieving items by name as well as bringing them to another person I indicate. The biggest downside to owner-training, as it is called, is we often don’t have the energy to do it consistently. That’s why I personally use a trainer, but I know it isn’t financially an option for everyone because it can cost thousands of dollars, depending on how much training needs to be done (and board-and-train is more expensive due to the living/care costs involved, though it is generally faster).

        If you don’t want to use your current dog, you can get a puppy or apply to a program, in which case you would need to research which programs train for your needs and then fill out the application forms, which typically include information from your doctor. Most programs have long wait lists, often several years long, so that’s a downside.

        To qualify for a service dog, you must be disabled as per the ADA (assuming you are in the US), which means that you have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, such as seeing, hearing, walking, caring for self, etc. There is no requirement that the dog/team be certified, and any Web site selling certification and ID cards is a scam. The government does not recognize any such thing.

        That is not true that nobody else can love on a service dog, don’t worry! While you should be the one feeding the dog every or most days, your service dog can be petted by and play with others when not working. Of course, when she’s helping you at home or any time she’s on duty in public, others should not distract/interact with her without your permission (i.e. I will sometimes give my service dog the “go say hi” command to give her a temporary reprieve so a friend can pet her, but then it is right back to working and ignoring people while out). When off duty, service dogs act like regular dogs.

        I hope that helps!

  3. Athena Depper says:

    I have three wonderful rabbits, one of which will cuddle with me and lick my face to make me laugh. All three love petting and that motion is just so calming for me. Rabbits can also be service animals btw. Emotional support.

    • Service Dog Handler says:

      Rabbits cannot be service animals; only dogs can be service animals, as the ADA clearly states. It also clearly states that animals for emotional support/comfort are not service animals. Any animal, including rabbits, can be emotional support animals (pets allowed only in housing and airplanes) as long as the owner has a mental disability the animal helps with and the owner has a letter from their doctor attesting to the disability and need for the animal (for flying, the letter must be less than one year old, state that the disability is listed in the DSM-IV, and fit other requirements as per the Air Carrier Access Act).

      (Miniature horses that have been task-trained like service animals also can be taken in public like service animals can, but on a case-by-case basis because of their size and such.)

      • @Service Dog Handler, thanks for sharing the ADA definition of a Service Dog. Gee Whiz, if someone wants to consider their rabbit or whatever as their “service animal” for emotional support that’s their right to do so.

        You are very negative, please stop. I have Fibromyalgia and all your comments do is add more pain.

        I have a German Shepard and don’t care that he is not an ADA approved service dog. But, he is my own version of a “service dog”. He comforts me and makes me feel better.

        • Service Dog Handler says:

          Necie, no, it is actually not their right to fake their pet/emotional support animal as a service animal. A service animal is a legally-defined term under both federal and state laws, and in many states it is a misdemeanor to call a pet/emotional support animal a service animal. It is also illegal in every state to bring pets/emotional support animals in restaurants, places that serve or sell food, etc. Emotional support animals are also legally defined for housing and flying (not for public access to stores etc.) and one must have a letter from one’s mental health doctor stating they have a mental disability and the emotional support animal helps said disability. Any animal that doesn’t fit those two terms is a pet.

          I’m not saying anything negative, in fact I am helping people by making sure they don’t break the law and also so they don’t hurt real service dog teams by businesses having bad experiences and by fake service dogs attacking real ones.

          Your dog is not a service dog. If you have a mental disability, he might be able to be considered as an emotional support animal (you’ll have to ask your doctor if he agrees), but you really wouldn’t need that designation unless you rent your housing or need your dog to fly with you (but again, he wouldn’t be allowed anywhere else, like no-pets hotels, restaurants, etc. while you’re away, so it would be difficult to do anything unless you put him in doggy daycare there).

          • David Brock says:

            I think you’ve become a bit anal about this!!
            No one mentioned “faking” of any kind. Lots of us who have Fibro have come to realise just how important our pets are, besides the obvious.
            I have a crossbreed spaniel/labrador. He comforts me when I’m having a very bad day, he nags me for exercise thus ensuring I get the little but often exercises that help improve my symptoms. His company helped me through depression, helped me make new friends. He seems to instinctively understand and know when I need him.
            I 100% believe he saved my life, without his love, help and loyalty I don’t believe I would have gotten through depression, would not be here today.
            So no, my dog is not an ADA recognised service dog (besides which I live in the UK) but he is MY service dog. He is my pet, my comforter, my alarm clock, my doorbell, my socialiser and my best friend.

        • Donna says:

          I agree with Necie. After reading some of Service Dog Handler’s comments, I just quit reading them! None of us are asking for Service Dogs. Geeze! Take your negativity somewhere else! I have a 4 month old Morkie and she helps me out so much! Would I love to be able to take her everywhere with me? Sure. But I don’t. But I love coming home to her. I even love it when she wakes me up at 4am. I now wake up in a good mood. Here’s to all of us Fibro Sufferers and Dog Lovers!

  4. anna says:

    I wonder if people would be more comfortable with the term “Therapy dog”? I am lucky to live in Colorado, where anyone can say their dog is a therapy dog and bring it into a public place. (local courthouse for instance). Lots of people do abuse the privilege of course, but there are also people who benefit from it greatly for issues like fibro or anxiety. My last dog was a registered therapy dog with Therapy Dogs International, working on it with my new rescue pup, but while she is perfect for me, she doesn’t have the personality to serve others like my last lab did. I do bring her to work with me most days, (I work in a law firm) and while she doesn’t interact a lot, she definitely brings the energy of the space up and staff and clients enjoy seeing her.

    • Service Dog Handler says:

      Anna, a therapy dog is a pet (owned by anyone, with or without a disability) that visits nursing homes, hospitals, libraries, etc. to bring joy to the many people there. They do not have any rights to go to public places, including those they go in, but can only go when invited. That includes in Colorado. The only reason your friends might get away with taking them places is because the businesses don’t want to be sued and/or don’t understand the differences between service dogs, emotional support animals, and therapy dogs (the latter two are often mixed up). There is no legal definition of a therapy dog; they are pets like all other pets. Emotional support animals are pets owned by people who have mental disabilities and they can’t be brought into public, either, but they can live in no-pets housing and fly on airplanes, both with a doctor’s letter stating that the owner has a mental disability and the presence of the animal helps. (They are not limited to being dogs, unlike service animals.) Therapy Dogs International should explain this to you in your course with them. I am sorry to hear your new pup might not make for a good therapy dog, but hopefully she’ll be able to still do something in the end.

    • Anne M. Ganser says:

      I must agree with the many others whom cited the overall negative tone and context in which Service Dog Handler has responded. The emphasized exclusivity of what officially constitutes the “Service Dog” earned distinction, seems arguably unfair and debatable. In lieu, of the cited legal conditions and perimeters mentioned by Service Dog Handler.

      What is really important to recognize is that our beloved pets and relationship with them is a win/win for everybody. It’s undeniable the universal understanding and love pets bring to all lives. It’s sad that SDH separates “Service Dogs” completely from other pets, who also contribute to the same end results, by making one’s life better.

      • Service Dog Handler says:

        I have not said anything with a negative tone or context,but simply stated the laws which we all need to follow (in the US, though I don’t think any country allows emotional support animals as service/assistance dogs). There is nothing unfair nor debatable about the definition of a service animal. If someone really needs the help of a task-trained service dog, they’ll get one, otherwise they can enjoy their pet at home and pet-friendly places like everyone else. Neither disabled people nor the general public need untrained animals in public places.

        There is definitely a big distinction between service dogs and pets and pets are wonderful, but do not help “with the same end results”. Service dogs are trained daily for one to two years and are worth up to $50,000. They are trained to do tasks and behave impeccably in public. Pets are hopefully trained basic obedience (it is good for them), sometimes a little more, with a few hours of training. Most don’t have the personality that it takes to be a service dog and work in public (not even all dogs temperament tested to be trained as service dogs make it all the way through training). Nothing wrong with owning a pet, but you cannot go around calling it a service dog when it isn’t one (and in many states, it is a misdemeanor to do so) or if you’re not disabled. Service dogs are medical equipment, not pets. If you still fail it see the vast difference between the two, go look up what service dogs are and do.

        The law is really not that complicated: if you are disabled (physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, such as seeing, walking, hearing, etc.) and your dog has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks that directly relate to your disability (such as retrieving items you cannot get yourself or alerting to a seizure before it happens or guiding a blind person) and is housebroken and behaves in public, it can be a service dog. Otherwise, it is a pet (or an emotional support pet for a person with a mental disability).

        Facts are facts, not opinions.

  5. Michele says:

    I agree with you completely! My dog, Mackie, has gotten me through some of my worst days, just by showing me the unconditional love he has for me. When I’m crying or curled up in a ball in pain he just comes to me and lies next to me and I immediately feel his love and warmth and it truly lightens the immense feelings of doom I have. I honestly do not know what I would do without him. He has saved my sanity many, many times over.

  6. Trish says:

    I have several pets and depending on the severity they all help.
    My cat will come when I’m having a fibro attack and lay beside me touching my side or hand and somehow put me to sleep. She also snuggles when she knows the pain is bad. I have her registered as my service animal.
    My bunny is also super helpful. My snake will even wrap herself around my arm if it’s hurting and just hold me.

    • Service Dog Handler says:

      Trish, I am sorry to hear that you were scammed into registering your pet on a scam Web site. I hope they didn’t con money out of you for it! There is no such thing as legitimately registering a service animal, nor does entering your pet’s information on a Web site turn it into a service animal. The only thing that makes a dog a service animal (cats and other animals cannot be service animals) is one to two years of intense training so that the dog can do tasks that directly relate to the person’s disability to help them. Emotional support, comfort, etc. are not trained tasks and do not make a dog a service dog, as the law specifically points out. If you have a mental disability, your comforting cat can be declared by your doctor as your emotional support animal so you can keep it in no-pets housing and bring it on airplanes, both with a doctor’s letter. Emotional support animals aren’t allowed in public places as service dogs are. There is no legitimate registration for emotional support animals; just a doctor’s letter is required.

      If you spent money on that scam registration site, you should try to get your money back!

      • Vera Hall says:

        I’m sorry, but please quit referring to service animals for “mental illness” Fibro is NOT a mental illness, it is a chronic pain disease with side effects of anxiety and depression. Many Fibro patients are W/c bound and many are bedridden. Many are not. Because of the on’s and off’s of this disorder, it is near impossible to get (much less afford) an honest-to-God, service dog. I think you would find that many of these precious animals referred to here, can do almost anything your “real” service dogs can do.

        • Service Dog Handler says:

          I never said it was a mental illness. I said that the only people who qualify for an emotional support animal (which are not service dogs) are those who have a mental disability, so if that person has one, she might qualify, otherwise she doesn’t. Of course Fibro isn’t a mental illness! Some people with Fibro, just like any other condition, have multiple conditions.

          Conditions that are on and off still can qualify as disabling, so if your Fibro is disabling, even if it is on/off, you could still qualify for a service dog (there would have to be tasks that the dog has been trained to do that directly relate to your disability in order to qualify, things like retrieving objects, helping you walk, etc.). There are lots of conditions that are on/off that people have service dogs for because when they are on, they are disabling. Things like multiple sclerosis, seizures, chronic migraines, diabetes, severe panic attacks, etc. You still have the condition even when it is “off”. In some cases, dogs can even alert you before a flare-up.

          Yes, dogs, especially service dogs, aren’t cheap, but many people who have them are on government disability payments, so it is very possible to have one in many different financial situations. Many programs give their dogs for free or you just have to fundraise for them, plus there’s the option of training your own with or without a professional trainer.

          Unfortunately, most pets don’t have the temperament to be service dogs, and some don’t have the health (i.e. no hip dysplasia problems, no eye problems, not old). Almost all pets do not do what service dogs do, as it takes one to two years of daily training to train a service dog.

  7. Samantha says:

    I have a half bassett half weiner dog. He is almost always with me. I laugh just watching him run. He is a survivor of the Moore tornado. He had a lot of issues, fears, when I got him. Helping him helped me. He still fears high winds and hides in the closet during storms. It takes the right kind of dog for fibro people. My Niko is lazy but always up for a walk. If you think having a pet may help please rescue and spend some time with the animal before you commit.

  8. Samantha says:

    Thunder shirt he wears is priceless. Niko lost his house, and his people…The govt. housing wouldn’t allow pets. He runs blindly during thunder. We both have special needs.

    • Service Dog Handler says:

      Aww, poor pup! Have you tried the herbal liquid called “Bach’s Rescue Remedy”? (Be sure to get the one for pets, as the one for humans contains alcohol.) I used it successfully on a previous dog who was scared of thunderstorms after lightning struck the end of the driveway (I think she felt it in her tags or something, as she was sitting right in front of the window). I just used the eyedropper to put the stuff in her mouth, not put it in water or on a treat like the bottle recommends (a scared dog isn’t going to eat or drink…). Try to give it at least a half-hour before the storm begins (watch the weather forecast/get alerts on your phone), but even when you can’t, use it during the storm and it will eventually help (usually within a half-hour, in my experience). Somehow, that dog knew the tub was a safe place from lightning/static in the air, so she loved to lay in it when scared because of a storm! The Thundershirt is designed to help with the static, too.

  9. Kelly says:

    I to have fibromyalgia, I also have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, and rheumatoid arthritis. I have a very sweet little Yorkshire terrier that loves to snuggle and he has been a great comfort to me on those awful pain filled days. I recently adopted a German Biewer Yorkshire terrier and am in the process of training her to be my service dog. I know it will be awhile before she is ready to work in public, but I’m sure the hard work and training will be worth it. She will be pretty small, but she is smart and the training is going well. It is totally legal to train your own service dog and there is a lot of information out there to help you do it. This little girl already reacts to high anxiety and panic attacks and she will be trained to pick items up that I have dropped as sometimes bending down to pick something up is nearly impossible for me. Even if your animal is considered just a “pet” I know from personal experience what life savers these wonderful little creatures are, so enjoy those fur babies and I wish the best for us all.

  10. Aylwin says:

    Thanks for this article. I’ve had fibro for 4 years now. Last year I lost my African Grey parrot, Kezi, and this year my chocolate lab, Mungo. Because I had them before my fibro started I never knew how much they helped me until they were gone. I think grief over Mungo has pushed me into flare up again. Appreciate your article. Hope I’ll find another pet to love! Agree they give company, affection, unconditional love, distraction, purpose, comfort and much, much more. They don’t expect more than you can give. They don’t argue back or get angry. They are never negative. If only I could train my husband to be like that too!

    • Tim Bossie says:

      We are sorry for your Mungo… 🙁 Pets are so very important to anyone with a chronic illness as they are an outlet for our emotions and they can calm with their presence. We do hope that you are able to find another pet to love.

  11. Kim says:

    @ Service Dog Handler
    Are you the blog police? I have a feeling this isn’t the only blog you’ve invaded with your negativity. I understand you’re trying to get a point across, you have that right but you might want to chose your words more carefully when you are dealing with chronically ill people!
    People like myself come to these boards for support and share out stories, NOT to have the wind knocked out of our sails.

    • Jenny says:

      I agree with you, Kim. I already commented long ago on this stream that she was being way too negative. Quite frankly NOBODY is asking about the proper terminology or the rules required to qualify them as a service dog, support dog, whatever. All we’re saying – and all the author was saying – is that pets can help us deal with our awful, painful situations, even just by sitting by our sides. That’s IT. I don’t know anyone else personally who has fibromyalgia so I, too, come here for support, not to read rude comments aimed at people who are suffering. There is a negative tone in EVERY response she posts. Personally, I think she should be blocked. Her “advice” is not needed.

    • Service Dog Handler says:

      No, I don’t go posting on or even reading Blogs; this one showed up in a Google Alert, so I checked it out. Again, there’s nothing negative about posting the laws and helping people, especially if it will keep them out of jail. And I know all about chronic illness and pain, since I suffer from several chronic and lifelong diseases and conditions myself. Posting the laws isn’t knocking the wind out of anyone’s sails nor is protecting the rights of those who have real service dogs. There are people who have actual needs for emotional support animals (which are not service dogs, but are pets owned by people who have mental disabilities), which are currently allowed on planes with a doctor’s letter, but because so many people have faked their pets as emotional support animals when the people are not disabled by a mental illness (which is vastly different from having a diagnosis of a mental illness), the law is undergoing a change to perhaps no longer allow these animals on planes, even for those who actually need them. And people fake their pets as service dogs, too, so that part of the law is also under review, possibly to make it harder for those who actually need them and have dogs that are actually task-trained under the laws. Faker animals have also many times attacked real service dogs, which can cause the dog to be out of commission or need to be retired early, leaving their person without help, probably stuck at home for years until the replacement dog can be found and trained, which also costs many thousands of dollars, which many people with disabilities do not have.

      • Kim says:

        No one here is asking about the rules laws and regulations associated with how their animals support their needs, no matter what that need may be. You ARE knocking the wind out the sails of women that feel their animals ARE in a sense a type of service animal. If that makes them feel better then SO BE IT. We did not ask for the mile long paragraphs explaining the stipulations of calling your pet a service animal. I’m pretty sure this is just a term that is used in the privacy of their own homes, nor do I think they dress their pets as if they are service animals.
        If you’d like to discuss your health issues that’s fine, but your ramblings on about how we should view are animals in not wanted.

        • Tavi says:

          Yes!!! The negativity is too much. Ok you’re trying to prove a point, but maybe you should read the blog again. Your point is irrelevant. I’m under the impression that you do not have a chronic pain condition. If you did, you would understand how ridiculous you are. In the bigger scheme of things I love my dog. She knows when I’m hurting and she won’t leave my side.

          • Kim says:

            I have both lupus AND fibromyalgia, so YES I do know what pain is. The point I was trying to make to the dog handler was that we should be able to view the support of our pets as we wish, without her negative comments. I think this reply and my reply afterwards were relevant to all of the other posts.
            I don’t believe I’ll be posting here anymore. Too many back and forth petty arguments. I was just trying to defend the other ladies and you obviously misunderstood that.

          • Tim Bossie says:

            Kim, we are sorry for the negative experience you have had in commenting on our post. It is unfortunate that there are those who like to argue through words left in a reply or a comment. Please do not let this interfere in the way that you add your thoughts and encouragement. We appreciate those, like you, who add a great deal of value to our community here.

          • Kim says:

            Thank you for your support with this issue. Perhaps I’ll read another topic of discussion on this blog and see if I can help there. This particular issue is closed as far as I’m concerned.

  12. denise roberts says:

    hi, I have had fibro for many years. I had 2 chihuahuas for 15-16 years. I also lost them within 6 months of each other. I was devastated. I ended up with chickens….stop laughing…they are the best therapy! They require constant care so I am required to go out and care for them even when I would rather just curl up in a corner. they are comical and all have their own kooky personalities. I love them all and make me feel calm and relaxed. I have since acquired a big pitbull named Mr. T. He’s a sweet loveable ham, and a bed hog!! By the way he was also a rescue. I needed him and he needed me.

  13. Theresa Roke says:

    Nickie and I met on the day after Christmas, 2013. He was a malnourished stray orange tabby that somehow got stuck in our garage for 3 days. My husband flat refused to consider adopting him but we fed him and fixed a warm bed on the porch. He was still there the next day so I fed him again. His little belly looked like he had swallowed a softball! As soon as he was finished he jumped onto my lap, curled up and fell asleep. I felt so relaxed sitting there. My husband came looking for me, saw Nickie on my lap and said, “I guess we’re adopting him.” In the 3 years that we’ve been a family Nickie has seen me through quite a few rough spots, and my husband as well. Now I think Nickie (short for St. Nicholas’ gift) is closer to my husband but he stays near me all day while my husband is at work. Nickie doesn’t relax and fall asleep on the bed until both my husband and I are in bed, too. As I’m writing this he’s asleep between us, making sure we stay put. I truly believe that Nickie adopted us when we needed him most.

  14. Diane Smith says:

    Hi y’all!! Just had to say, thanks Denise for making me laugh so much! I truly believe that laughter is the best medicine. I lost my German Shepherd to old age and miss him everyday. He knew when I was hurting, depressed or whatever. He followed me everwhere! Picture a 100Lb German Shepherd trying to fit into my bathroom with me when the only floor space available was about 2’x4′!! He was one of the smartest dogs I’ve ever had but unfortunately he would not have made a good service dog, or therapy dog as he LOVED people & attention. That’s ok, he was my everything all rolled into 1!! Animals are amazing!

  15. Carissa Haugen says:

    I appreciate your article. To comment directly about the statements of Service Dog Handler (SDH) and those against the statements: SDH has made many comments detailing the facts of what an actual service dog is. I have not seen anything negative in SDH’s statements, they have been correcting misstated facts. The negativity that I saw was actually in the comments arguing with SDH. As someone who has a legally recognized service dog I appreciate SDH’s statement correcting the misinformation of those who have emotional support animals or therapy animals claiming they have service dogs. It is unfortunate that some people attempt to take advantage of the laws that say a SERVICE DOG is legally allowed to accompany its handler in most public areas by claiming their pet, companion animal or therapy animal is a SERVICE DOG. This does not mean all people with these types of animals try to fraud the system. But it is because of those few that do that actual service dogs and their handlers are given as many problems as they are. Noone is saying that the emotional Rewards of caring for a pet are any less important than the actual tasks a SERVICE DOG performs. SDH’s intention seems to merely assure that there is not any room for misunderstanding what a SERVICE DOG is. This effort is very much needed to ensure that someone does not read partial information and begin claiming there dog is a SERVICE DOG illegally and trying to bring them into public places. I don’t believe those with emotional support animals are actually out to hurt service dogs and their handlers. But even unknowingly they are in fact hurting them. If anyone with an emotional support animal wants to be able to legally be allowed to bring their animal into public establishments then they need to speak with their congress person to work on getting the laws changed. In any event, I would ask that everyone please use proper titles for your animals or pets. I have a service dog and 2 cats that are my pets and do also provide much emotional support to me as well. So I do speak from both sides.

    • Lynne Goldberg says:

      I agree completely. Most people are talking about their pets providing comfort in this thread, not about emotional support animals or properly trained service or therapy dogs.

    • Cheryl B. says:

      Wow thanks. I was starting to think I was the only fibro sufferer who is sick of seeing dogs everywhere like grocery stores or Costco. I actually saw a dog jump up and stick his nose in the produce. I love dogs. I lost mine 6 weeks ago and am waiting patiently for my DH to be ready. My 30 year old former Marine son-in-law is legally blind and can get a service dog when he is ready for one. I understand the difference between a pet and a service dog. Everyone needs to understand the difference. It doesn’t mean we do not love our pets and they don’t help us.

    • Brooke says:

      I agree. I think the people reacting angrily are just misunderstanding. It’s just the term, not the benefit, that SDH is trying to fix. The fact is that Service Dog is a legal term that comes with special rights for the dog’s owner. Many people who misunderstand, or deliberately falsify, the label cause problems for those who must have their service dog at all times.

      I have fibromyalgia (as well as other health problems) and I am disabled. I have an ESA (emotional support dog) and he might be the only reason I’m alive. My mental health care provider wrote a letter for me to keep on hand that is kind of like a “prescription” explaining that my dog is necessary for mental health reasons. This makes it so that I can’t be forced to give him up in order to live somewhere. He is not a specially trained Service Dog under the law so I don’t have the privilege of taking him everywhere with me. I do believe that an ESA who has earned their GCG (canine good citizen) should have the right to go everywhere with a handler who needs them, but that’s a legal battle far from being won.

      While fibro is not a mental health problem, it definitely contributes to developing and/or worsening of mental health problems. There have been many times when I’m in a great deal of pain and feeling really hopeless, that my dog has been the only reason I didn’t end my life. He comforts me, provides that unconditional love (that no human in my life has offered), and gives me responsibility. There are many days that I would simply wallow in bed but I HAVE to get up to care for him. I have PTSD and suffer from severe panic attacks. My dog does his best to console me through these episodes and his presence and touch are soothing. Having him with me allows me to go places and to socialize in situations where I simply couldn’t if he was not there.

      My dog has a vest that says “ESA” on it and I must admit that I do take advantage of the ignorance or, in some cases, kindness that people have with regard to my need for him. Most businesses do not question me when they see his vest. If they did, and they knew the law well and asked us to leave, we would have to do so. If his vest said “Service Dog” and someone was able to prove he wasn’t, I could face charges for having misrepresented my ESA as a Service Dog. The biggest problems with misrepresentation come from owners with untrained dogs. I don’t claim that my dog is a Service Dog, but I do take him out in public in the hopes no one will complain. For this reason, I have been vigilant with his training. A trained Service Dog is guaranteed to behave in a certain way. Dogs that jump on people, pee on random objects, hump, or attack other dogs have obviously not been trained as thoroughly as a legally recognized Service Dog. When a dog brought into an establishment being represented as a Service Dog winds up biting someone, destroying property, or harming an actual Service Dog, that causes more trouble in the lives of people who need Service Dogs to function.

      I’m sorry if I rambled. The point here is this:
      A dog (or cat, horse, parrot, etc) can be a helper and a comfort to anyone with a disability but we should not call them a “Service” animal. I generally just refer to mine as a “support dog.” Whatever help your wonderful pet provides for you, just please don’t take them to public places if they aren’t VERY well trained and definitely don’t refer to them as a Service animal if they are not legally recognized as such.

      Peace and love to all animal lovers and especially those suffering with chronic pain!

      • GVGIRL says:

        HI THERE FELLOW FIBRO SUFFERER’s! 🙂 Well, this has been interesting. I just stumbled across Robin’s article, and the many comments it has generated! (Little did you know, right Robin!?! Good job! 🙂 I have to admit, I was getting exhausted reading them all! LOL! Now, I will post my own LONG comment, to add to the list! I understand what ‘Service Dog Handler’ was trying to say; however, she may have been able to express herself in a more productive/non-offensive manner (?). I also understand how people can get amazing comfort from their own pets, and I absolutely do not want to dismiss that! I know that, first hand! On the other hand, I am very familiar with the legalities of ESA, vs Therapy animals, vs Service Dogs. Since this whole topic was brought up, I’ll try to clarify for anyone who MAY be interested. The term ‘Service Dog’, LEGALLY is often used inappropriately. This is a really sensitive subject for many SD handlers, for sort of good reason though. Many SD’s and their handlers experience a lot of problems within public places, due to Non-Service Dog presence, not just ill behavior. Many people do not realize the EXTENT of the training that SD’s go through (and continue to go through), and for good reason. When a SD goes through that kind of training, and a handler has committed themselves to continue it daily…it’s a huge/important deal, and A LOT of work for that disabled handler. When the vests are on, these dogs are truly working. People who qualify for a SD, NEED to have their dog 100% focused. They also need any support they can get from anyone around them. That may include for example, (unless otherwise specified)….don’t distract the dog, don’t pet the dog, don’t talk to the dog. It’s not meant to be rude, it’s just really helpful to the SD AND to their handler. If a SD is trained to alert for seizures, low B/P, low blood sugar etc., and is distracted for whatever reason, it could prevent that SD from alerting it’s handler timely. Even though these dogs are extensively trained….they are still dogs. We don’t want to prevent them from doing their job to the best of their ability, because that can obviously have a terrible ill-effect on the handler. That dog, often times is that handler’s lifeline. I’m going to be blunt, but it is irresponsible and/or disrespectful for anyone to think it is acceptable to have their ‘non’ service dog within a public place, simply because they may LIKE/PREFER/FIND IT HELPFUL etc., to have their dog present. They are putting their needs/desires above someone else’s. If there truly was a ‘NEED’, they would be (and should be) approved for a SD. We really need to think about the effect this has, in regard to other peoples needs/health. ESA dogs and the ‘Fake’ Service Dogs that were referenced earlier, have public access RESTRICTIONS for an important reason. Unfortunately, even though a person may truly BENEFIT from having their ESA dog with them in a public place…if it does not fall within the ADA guidelines as a SD, they are not to be allowed. It doesn’t make a difference if it is obedient. I’ll use Brooke’s comment as an example (no disrespect intended, it’s just a good example for all of us to learn). She has a well behaved ESA dog with an ESA vest on, and let’s say a business owner still allows her in their place of business (which Brooke is right, he’s not supposed to do). The simple fact that other patrons SEE that obvious ‘ESA Dog’ is in a public business, it’s presence simply implies that it is acceptable….and the flood gates open. Now everyone thinks they can bring their ESA Dog in, and the problem only gets worse. The control is lost, and inevitably more disobedient dogs are going to be present. The problem isn’t just with the non-SD owner, but the business owner as well. I will also say, I think SD handlers do have a responsibility to help others understand the RATIONALES behind the guidelines, and to do so in a clear but kind manner. I know it can be hard when someone is exhausted, may feel terrible on that particular day, has come across the same problem 5x in one ‘quick’ visit to the grocery store. Frustration isn’t fun. Unless we are in each other’s shoes, we really don’t know how our actions/words effect one another. It is truly a complex subject matter, a vicious circle, a lot of misunderstanding, putting our own needs before someone else’s, and I know it’s not all easy. The rules/guidelines are in place to keep things under control, and effective for the disabled. Unfortunately, we may not all like them. Like I said, if someone feels the need for their dog to be present in public places of business, they need to and SHOULD apply for a SD. If you qualify, than you’re on the right track! Hopefully, my rambling may have clarified things a bit for someone, and I didn’t offend TOO many! 🙂 REGARDLESS, let’s all cherish our animals, be grateful & thankful for them, and also be respectful to everyone around us.

        • Brooke says:

          I can understand where you’re coming from. My dog is technically trained to help with panic attacks by keeping people at a distance and laying on my torso. I recently learned that I could have a “psychiatric service dog” but my boy is too old to learn anything any fancier than he already knows and it’s going to be just the two of us until the end of his natural life. I will probably seek formal training with another dog when I have lost him.

          All that said, I personally don’t believe ANY well-behaved and under control dog should be denied access to most places. The only reason anyone would complain about a perfectly behaved dog just being PRESENT is that the person complaining is a snooty jerk. Having a dog around doesn’t automatically make a place “unsanitary” and a dog that is under control won’t be approaching people or barking and such. A good dog doesn’t give anyone any trouble. Strangers’ children, on the other hand, make lots of public places extremely unpleasant.

    • GVGIRL says:

      Carissa Haugen, Well said! I agree. I made a comment; however, it was super wordy! Thanks for your words. I too am on both sides of the fence. I support anyone who needs assistance; however, you have to go about it the right way. I just can’t go along with a person thinking they should be exempt from following any guidelines. If the guidelines need to be changed, so be it….but they have to be legitimately be changed. Thanks again!

  16. I have recently created a free training assistance group on FaceBook for those wanting to learn about getting and training their own dog for service work for Fibromyalgia/Lupus/MS.

    As a Fibro warrior of over 20yrs and a dog trainer for almost 25yrs (with a focus on Service Dogs for the last 16) I am in a somewhat unique position to be able to offer help to those who need it.

    If anyone is interested the group can be found here:

  17. Judy Stetz says:

    Hi y’all! My fur babies can sense when my flares happen. My dogs (2 of them) and one of my cats curl up with me on my worse days. My cat somehow knows which knee is hurting and will lay on it. They know and I call them my living heating pads! Love my fur babies!

  18. Lyne P says:

    They help us live in the present and they distracting us focusing on other things than our pain for a little while. I especially like to cuddle with my fur baby girl. She likes when we (my hubby and I) take care of her:kissing, petting, cuddling, talking to her, take her in our arms like a baby and fall asleep on us. What a joy having this precious little 4 legged love. She really is my “baby”!

  19. Jen says:

    I have fibromyalgia, migraines and bell’s palsy. My dog is Shepard/Englis Bull dog mix who is 7. She my best buddy. She knows when I’m in pain and lays with me when I’m down. If I have a bell’s palsy attack during the night she will wake me up by either laying on me or licking my face till I’m fully awake. We just found out 2 weeks ago that she lymphoma and myself and my family were devastated. She is on steroids which shrank all her lymphnoids and she is acting like her old self again. I just don’t know what I’ll do once she is gone. She’s been my everything since we rescued her 6 years ago.

  20. Miriam says:

    I am researching different types of pets as I too was recently diagnosed with fibro. We live in a very remote area so options are limited. I went to the shelter while we were travling to a larger town and tried to walk the smallest which was only 20 lbs but even that was too much of a tug on me (my arm trigger points are always on fire.) So I think a toy or even teacup, something under 10 lbs. Is there a network of people / breeders / shelters that are a go-to for fibro pet adoption. At this point I know a pet will truly help but it is a stressful emotional roller coaster trying to find one. I have been looking at shelters within a days drive (Silver City, NM) as well as online though Petfinder, Adopt-a-Pet and Rescue Me. I am more a dog person and have been resisting the kitten/cat option because I really do want a snuggler/cuddler. Can anyone comment on their cat experience? Are some cat breeds better fibro companions? Any hints or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

  21. Kris says:

    Although I don’t have a dog to comfort me on bad fibro days, I have considered getting one. He or she would first and foremost be a pet to love. Secondly he/she would help ease my fibto symptoms in a number of ways. I think I can safely state that on bad fibro days, when your dog would be most comforting, you would be going out to a restaurant or shopping, or even goin to church. However, I can see the potential need to get a letter from your doctor if you were going to take a commercial airplane flight. You cannot easily predict a flare. You might be having a bad fibro day on the date of your flight and your dog could help you endure the pain so you could still make your flight.

  22. Rene Mancourt says:

    Pets don’t have to be cats or dogs. I have a bearded dragon who is my class pet. I teach Kindergarten, which is physically and emotionally draining. If I’m stressed, I hold my baby and stroke his tail. He just sits on my shoulder as long as I need. At home I have a bunny. He doesn’t like to be held, but will let me pet him for hours(If I could sit on the floor that long!) His antics make me laugh and he’s a very good listener! they both help me cope with pain, exhaustion and depression.

  23. My girl Moon Shadow is my best fury friend and work partner. I am a Counselor, Art Therapist and Animal Assisted Psychotherapist and because of the symptoms of Fibromyalgia my working life has dwindled to 15 hrs per week. Those 15 hrs are so very enriching for both my clients and myself because we get to spend them with the calmest, most intuitive dog ever. Like other Fibro sufferers have shared, my beautiful girl seems to provide warmth right at the spots that are aching the most and treats me very gently when I am having a flare up. Moon Shadow is the greatest.

  24. Trisha says:

    @ Service Dog Trainer…I’ve just finished reading a lot of your comments and I wanted to say thanks. I’m on the verge of starting assistance dog training and though I’m in Australia and the laws will be different maybe, I’ve found the information you have shared to be really helpful. I have lots more questions for the trainer and I’ve never thought about how to toilet a dog in public. That alone could be a massive worry for me. So yeah… thank you and God bless you:)

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