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Expert Answers: Service Dogs and COPD.

Expert Answers: Service Dogs and COPD

Sometimes, here at, a community member will ask a question that could benefit from an expert’s point of view. There has been some talk about COPD and the use of service dogs, so, we asked our experts:

What do you know about service dogs for COPD?

Response from Leon
Living with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) can be physically debilitating. For some people, COPD – and its associated comorbidities, may keep them from pursuing and enjoying their daily routine and normal (physical) activities. Sometimes, people with COPD may experience serious emotional issues such as loneliness, anger, anxiety or fear. However, with simple modifications to lifestyle, such as healthy eating habits and exercise, living a good life with COPD is very attainable and should be pursued.1-5

Many of us have heard about and/or seen service animals working with their owners. Animal-assisted therapy or pet therapy, as it is sometimes called, is used in many healthcare facilities, including hospitals and long-term care facilities. Pet therapy is a guided, structured interaction between a person and a trained animal, and it is used to help a patient recover from, or cope with, a health problem or mental health disorder. According to the Mayo Clinic, animal-assisted therapy can reduce pain, anxiety, depression and fatigue in people with a range of health problems, helping people achieve improved emotional and physical health.1-5

Service dogs for COPD may be able to make one’s life easier by carrying oxygen cylinders or performing small tasks that are more difficult to handle on one’s own. If you have a prescription for supplemental oxygen therapy and aren’t using a small oxygen cylinder or a portable oxygen concentrator, you know that carrying an oxygen tank can become heavy, tiresome and even inhibit the desire to leave the house.1-5

With a properly trained service dog, the pet can actually carry the oxygen cylinder for you to lighten the load. Service dogs can also retrieve items that are out of your reach (such as dropped keys or a small package), open and close doors, find a specific person (for you) and lead them to you, turn light switches on or off, and even bark to notify others that help may be needed. Service dogs for COPD can also help to keep you physically active, as well. Walking your service dog on a regular basis can help you improve your exercise tolerance. Through companionship, a service dog can also ease one’s stress and anxiety. If you are in need of some assistance or companionship, you may want to consider getting a service dog.1-5

Of course, there are some risks associated with having a service dog; not the least of which is allergies, if one is so affected. There is also the additional ‘work’ of sanitation for the animal owner. These should be considered in discussing the feasibility of a service dog with your physician.

Response from John
I do not. All I know about them is they are usually allowed where other dogs are not, and this includes the hospital.


Response from Lyn
Performing many daily chores can be difficult when a person has COPD. Sometimes trying to do something as mundane as picking up something you’ve dropped becomes a task of astronomical proportions.

Thankfully, service dogs can be trained and used for people with breathing problems. They will pick things up, retrieve an item you need so you don’t have to get up to get it, “answer” the door, and many other daily chores – some even pick up the telephone. Another plus side to having a service dog is they provide exercise for their owner at a pace that’s right for you. They also afford much needed companionship for those that can’t get out as much as they used to. However, this may also represent a negative aspect for some people suffering from COPD. Since the dog does need exercise and walks, it may actually be a burden to someone who is no longer able to get out or walk even short distances. Another concern might be the animal dander. Depending on your particular situation and what may trigger exacerbations, having an animal may not work for you.

There are organizations that provide service dogs free of charge to the recipient or at a very low cost. However, some are very costly, so it pays to do your research. If it’s something you feel would benefit you, speak to your doctor about it.

What are your thoughts on service dogs for COPD – would you get one? Share your comments below!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Service Animals for Lung Disease (Accessed August 2016)
  2. Who can benefit from animal assisted therapy? 20046342?pg=2 (Accessed August 2016)
  3. Service Dogs for COPD: How You Can Benefit (Accessed August 2016)
  4. How Service Dogs Help People with COPD (Accessed August 2016) (Accessed August 2016)
  5. Service Dogs (Accessed August 2016)


  • kip88
    1 year ago

    What an excellent idea. In the apt community where ive been for 11 years, I’ve learned a lot about my neighbors. It tends to be unavoidable. And it’s so funny how many residents I’ve seen come and go with their ‘service’ dogs who haven’t the slightest idea what sit or stay means! Lol. They tell the management they have service dogs(when the dogs over a certain weight 40 pounds) so they can keep their pet. Clearly though they’re not service animals. They stay in a small apt all day long, barking and whining until their owners make it home sometime that evening after work, and after a few hours at the local watering hole! Right. Local bar. Like I said it’s unavoidable to know about the ppl around you after living in close quarters for years. So frustrating too though. I’ve lived alone for alot of years now, my breathing has progressively gotten worse, I had been hopeful I could make it better but maybe someday. For now I just listen to the sweet service pets incessant barking and I hate to think that pet probably feels as scared as me sometimes when I feel my capillaries in my lungs start swelling up. It used to not bother me so much but the older I get ive noticed I get very panicky. I realize I could stop breathing and I never have my nebulizer pt together when I need it most. Go figure. So way- way off the topic, oops. I think a canine helper companion could be perfect for someone with kinda bad- breathing issues. Oh and I had a stroke on April 29 th. It was really scary and freaked me out, i’ve never even had high blood pressure. Not even through 2 pregnancies! It was totally unexpected. Im still feeling the effects of that. I drop things a lot I don’t mean to at all though, my downstairs neighbors have just been here a few months, they absolutely HATED me after their first week here. Sheesh. Maybe I could benefit from a helper like these, i’ll talk to my doctor about it today. I am legally disabled though, so that might be a disadvantage- I took care of 2 kids while I was “disabled”though. I know I could take a dog out. Give me a great reason to take walks FOR SURE! At this point, I can’t go up a flight of stairs without being out of breath. What a pain! Idk how I ran across this site but sure glad I did! Thanks and see y’all again sometime. Kip

  • JimmyP
    3 years ago

    Hi Jenn,

    Sorry I wasn’t clear in my first comment. I simply felt that Leon’s post appeared to me to confuse a mobility assistance dog trained to carry oxygen cylinders, thus providing mobility to say, a young child or a frail older person who would otherwise have difficulty leaving their home because of the need to carry weighty portable oxygen cylinders, with dogs that are simply pets or therapy dogs or emotional support dogs.

    Under the ADA, the assistance dog trained to carry oxygen can accompany its handler everywhere he/ she goes e.g. shops, restaurants, taxis, public transport etc. The same is not true for pets or dogs that are designated as therapy dogs or emotional support dogs that Leon mentioned in his post. There is lots of material on the web related to the difference between a service or assistance dog and the other types so I won’t go further about this.

    I was very moved by Mary Ultes’ posts “On oxygen and on the go” series and I was also in mind of Lind27’s post about oxygen cylinders being too heavy for a dog to carry and likely to explode, so I provided some real-life examples of where oxygen tank-carrying assistance dogs are being used to provide life-support and mobility to children. Obviously, the dog would have to be of a size and strength that would enable it to carry the tanks. I couldn’t find any examples of adults using oxygen tank-carrying mobility assistance dogs though.

    In the same vein, I mentioned a firm (, that supplies a special padded saddle vest that facilitates the carrying of a pair of oxygen tanks by a trained assistance dog. I have no relationship with this firm whatsoever. I simply wanted readers of this forum to see an example of what is available in the way of purpose-made equipment for an oxygen tank- carrying mobility assistance dog and that using such a dog is feasible.

    I have seen pictures of dogs trained to pull specially adapted golf buggies so theoretically you could get a dog to pull an oxygen cylinder ‘buggy’ but going up kerbs and steps would be an issue.

    Obviously, as Leon said in his post, there is the burden of sanitation for the dog’s handler, but this is the same for handlers of any assistance dog, including guide dogs for the blind, e.g. the dog is trained to toilet in a specific place on command.

    Best wishes

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi Jimmy P, and thanks for your detailed clarification – it’s very helpful for our community members and all those who read this article and the comments about it.

    Please know there is no confusion as the classification of trained service dogs, and plain pets and/or therapy dogs is very distinctive and clear.

    You seem to be extremely well versed and knowledgeable on this topic and we greatly appreciate your input and thorough explanation. Anytime our readers contribute information, our community derives a significant benefit.

    Again, thanks so much for input!
    All the best,
    Leon (site moderator)

  • JimmyP
    3 years ago

    I am dismayed by Leon’s statement “With a properly trained service dog, the pet can actually carry the oxygen cylinder”. A service dog is a medical appliance for its handler – not a pet or even a therapy or emotional support animal. Service dogs have ADA The access rights to accompany their handlers wherever they go that other dogs don’t have.
    Service dogs have been used for carrying oxygen tanks especially for children with lung disorders notably 3 year-old Alida Knobloch, 17 year-old Jenny Youngwith and 2 year-old Frankie Watson. (you can google their cases).

    A company called advertises a special backpack to enable a dog to carry a pair of oxygen tanks.
    According to their web page they have designed this working Oxygen carrying backpack with padding underneath the back plate that goes on the dog’s back to give cushion comfort for the dog while carrying the oxygen cylinders. The two tank bags have removable padded cradles that hold the cylinder tanks secure. The bags have dual zipper heads so you can open the bags from either direction. On the outer area of the bags there are two additional pockets for extra storage, they also have dual zipper heads.

    The bag size is approximately 5.5″ x 16″ & 6″ deep, this will accommodate a standard M9 or smaller portable oxygen cylinder (with regulator attached). On the top of the backpacks there is a stand-up easy grip handle, and a clear ID pocket. There are a total of three D-rings for attaching leashes or bridge handle. There are two girth straps so the tanks don’t flop around, they are adjustable. The front chest strap is adjustable and has a buckle. Both sides have safety reflective webbing on them. This Backpack will fit a girth measurement of 30″-38″.

    This Oxygen Tank Backpack Harness comes in black, red or yellow color.

  • Jenn Patel
    3 years ago

    Hi JimmyP –

    Thanks for sharing. I couldn’t tell from your comment exactly what you’re dismayed about, but if you’d like to clarify we’d be happy to have you express that. Also, please note that if you have commercial interest in the product you are discussing, that is not permitted by our Community Rules. Either way, thanks for participating.

    Jenn (Community Manager, Team)

  • Lind27
    3 years ago

    I would never make a dog carry an oxygen tank, even a small one. It is too heavy, and also dangerous for a dog to be carrying something that could explode!

    That said, my dog is the reason I even tried to recover from an extremely bad COPD episode. Yes I take him for walks, and he waits for me to catch up… and so I get exercise. He is the reason I do most things, rather than just giving up.

    He is also great at opening the bathroom door when the steam from taking a shower is too much for me and I can not breathe.
    I leave the door slightly ajar, and he has no trouble pushing it open.

    So, if you love dogs and can still care for one, it might be good. If you are not sure, but would like to try having a dog around, you could maybe volunteer to foster a homeless dog through a local rescue group.

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi Lind and thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences on dogs and service dogs. We appreciate your input. You mentioned the ‘steam’ in the shower sometimes inhibits your breathing. If you’re taking hot showers, you may want to reduce the temperature to help decrease the amount of steam in the bathroom. I know you keep the door ajar – you may want to crack open the window (weather permitting) to let the steam escape. I also thought you might find it helpful to review this material on COPD and showers:
    All the best, Leon (site moderator)

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