The 7 Best Dog Breeds For People With Chronic Illness

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Living with a chronic illness can be hard day to day; it can drain your energy, leaving few spoons left for tasks like maintaining your living space or self-care. Add a dog into that mix and you'd think it could be a recipe for disaster — but there are some dog breeds that not only help people with chronic illness with love and unconditional affection, but have minimal needs and special breed features that make them perfect companions for people with certain health needs.

"Along with reducing stress levels, therapy dogs and emotional support animals can help people express their emotions more easily, build better impulse control, and improve sleep quality — all of which can be helpful in coping with anxiety and responses to trauma," Dr. Barbara Nosal, chief clinical officer at Newport Academy, tells Bustle. "For patients recovering from physical illness, service dogs can also provide practical assistance, such as retrieving items and preventing their owners from falling or other accidents."

If you decide that you want to balance the needs of a dog with the love that they can give you, there are a number of dog breeds that are particularly helpful for people with chronic illness. "A good support pet is social and loving with other people and animals, has a natural ability to anticipate their owner’s needs, and is not easily excitable," Dr. Nosal tells Bustle.

All dogs need at least some exercise, so consider if you or someone on your support team is able to take them out for a walk a few times a day. Depending on your needs, you might consider applying for a trained service dog. You can also think about going to a shelter with your list of needs and discussing if they have available dogs that can suit you; shelter staff may be able to point you towards the perfect canine companion who can then be certified as an emotional support animal. Most dogs that are low-energy, low-maintenance, and affectionate will be helpful as emotional support animals; it's just a matter of finding one for you. Here are seven breeds that are known to be helpful for people with chronic illness.


Standard Poodles

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Poodles, which are exceptionally intelligent, have a particular advantage: they're one of the best breeds of dog to become a service animal, which is useful if you qualify for a service dog who might help you with your chronic illness. Service dogs for chronic pain conditions like fibromyalgia can be exceptionally helpful, explains the US Service Animals Official Service: "From something so little as sitting on your lap as you watch TV to finding cold spots, supporting mobility and retrieving medicines, service dogs are truly amazing."

Poodles have several traits that make them excellent candidates for service. They're considered one of the most trainable breeds, and are also not prone to shedding, meaning that there's less work involved in picking up after them; nothing is more exhausting for somebody with chronic illnesses than a lot of household tasks, including vacuuming up dog hair.


Toy Maltese

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Like poodles, small Maltese dogs are hypoallergenic, which won't set off allergies. They're known to be suitable for small spaces and indoor life. They're affectionate and loving, and require a small amount of daily grooming to help keep their hair out of their eyes, which is easy due to their small size; they're also docile and easy to pick up and move if needed.


French Bulldogs

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Frenchies, as they're known, are beautiful, petite dogs — but owners with chronic illnesses will get much more from them them than good looks. French bulldogs are apartment-dwellers with minimal exercise needs, and are highly affectionate and friendly towards strangers. They also don't shed, and are lightweight and easy to carry when needed.


Boston Terriers

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Boston terriers are charming and low-energy; they only really need a daily walk. They're hypoallergenic and shed minimally, and are inclined to be lap dogs, which can be comforting. They bond firmly with their owners, have a high tolerance for strangers, and are perfectly suited for living in small spaces. They're also smart and can be trained to be helpful for particular things, like fetching medication.



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Unsurprisingly, the Maltipoo, which crosses the characteristics of the Maltese and the Poodle, can end up with the best of both: a low-shedding coat, an intelligent and capable personality, a small size and serious affection for its owners. They're puppy-like until old age, and have relatively low exercise needs; they'll be perfectly happy snoozing by your feet for hours or going for a brief adventure out of the house every day.


Chinese Cresteds

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Funny-looking they may be, but these largely hairless hounds are a treat to own, and a relief for anybody with a long-term condition. They don't shed, are small in stature, and don't require a lot of exercise; they're also fiercely loyal. The one downside is that you'll have to apply sunscreen to make sure they don't get sunburned when they're outdoors, or get them protective clothing.


Pharaoh Hounds

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If dander isn't that much of an issue for you, low-shedding Pharaoh Hounds, with their distinctive profile, are a very good breed for people with a desire for companion animals. They're pretty low energy considering that they're medium-sized dogs, with a good run of about 30 minutes every day and a yard to play in enough to satisfy their needs. They're also highly intelligent and adore training, so walking them without incident will be a breeze.


Not all dogs will be a fit for everyone, but these breeds can be helpful for anyone who identifies as having a chronic illness. Having animals around comes with immense mental health boosts, so if a dog fits into your lifestyle, consider one of these breeds of puppers.