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Department of Veterans Affairs launches veterinary care program for service dogs

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The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is now offering US veterans with a service dog unlimited access to veterinary care. The program began on January 27th in conjunction with Trupanion, a pet insurance company. This partnership will cover 100% of the costs related to veterinary care for certified service dogs.

Trupanion considers this to be a “win-win-win” situation for dogs, veterinarians and veterans. Veterans and veterinarians will not face financial constraints when treating service dogs thus enabling veterinarians to pursue the optimal level of medical treatment for service dogs.

The VA currently provides service dogs to veterans who are blind or vision impaired through guide dog schools. The service dog is trained to act as a pilot to direct its owner while avoiding obstacles. Veterans are prescribed a service dog by a clinician following assessment of their mobility and orientation as well an their ability to care for the dog and what goals the veteran hopes to accomplish through the use of a service dog. These goals may be as minor as walking to the bus station, yet can profoundly influence a veteran’s ability to obtain a job.

The VA does not charge for the dog or associated training and will provide veterinary care and equipment. However, the VA will not pay for boarding, grooming, food or any other routine expense associated with owning a dog.

Although the VA only offers service dogs to blind or vision impaired veterans, other programs such as the American Humane Association offers service dogs to veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, panic attacks, anxiety, depression or bi-polar disorders. The American Human Association will assist veterans that will benefit from a service dog with adopting and training a shelter dog as a service dog.

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