Cardiac Service Dogs in Australia: What You Need To Know

A brown and black Cardiac Service Dog with a blue harness standing beside a person wearing a pink shirt and black shoes in a modern cafe in Australia.

Service dogs for cardiac patients are invaluable companions, specially trained to assist individuals with heart conditions. These remarkable animals offer more than just companionship; they provide life-saving assistance and quality of life for their owners.

Below, we look at just how these dogs are able to detect heart irregularities, as well as how to acquire a cardiac service dog in Australia.

What is a cardiac service dog?

A cardiac service dog is trained to help people who have heart conditions. These dogs can detect and alert their owners to heart irregularities, such as oncoming heart attacks or dangerous changes in heart rhythm.

They provide a critical warning, allowing the person to seek help or take necessary medication before the situation becomes more severe. Besides their alerting duties, they can also be trained to perform tasks such as retrieving medications, bringing a phone to make emergency calls, or even assisting in stabilising someone during a cardiac event. They’re invaluable companions, providing both physical assistance and emotional support.

How do cardiac service dogs detect an issue?

Service dogs for cardiac patients can sense changes in their owner’s body or behaviour that indicate a medical issue. They’re trained to recognise specific signs or smells that happen when their owner needs help. Here’s how they do it:

  1. Training for scent: These dogs learn to pick up on very small changes in smell. For example, if someone’s heart rate or blood sugar changes, it might create a different scent that the dog can detect.
  2. Training for behaviour: Dogs are also trained to watch for certain actions from their owners, like clutching their chest, which might mean the person is having heart trouble.
  3. Responding: Once they detect a problem, the dogs do specific things to help, like fetching medication, pressing an alert button, or getting someone else to help.

Are they available in Australia?

Yes, cardiac service dogs are available in Australia. Organisations across the country train and provide service dogs for various medical conditions, including cardiac issues. These organisations work to ensure that the dogs meet the specific needs of individuals with heart conditions.

People interested in acquiring a cardiac service dog can contact the below organisations that specialise in medical assistance dogs to find out more about the application process and training requirements:

  1. Assistance Dogs Australia – They offer a range of assistance dogs, including those for individuals with physical disabilities and conditions that could require a cardiac service dog. More information on their programs and how to apply can be found on their website.
  2. Service Animals Australia – They provide specialised training for assistance dogs to perform tasks tailored to the needs of people with various disabilities and conditions. This includes training dogs for tasks such as medical alerts, which can be applicable to cardiac needs. You can learn more about their training programs and services here.
  3. Australian Lions Hearing Dogs – While primarily focused on hearing assistance dogs, they also train medical alert dogs for other conditions. Their program includes dogs that alert to medical emergencies, which may be suitable for someone with cardiac concerns. Explore their services further on their website.

What do they cost?

The cost of getting and training a service dogs for a cardiac patient in Australia can be quite substantial – ranging from $15,000 to $60,000, depending on the specific training and tasks required for the dog. This figure covers the training, general care, and other related expenses. Some organisations may offer assistance based on financial need, potentially lowering the initial out-of-pocket costs for those who qualify​.

Organisations that provide these dogs often engage in extensive fundraising to help offset these costs, allowing them to provide the dogs at a reduced rate or even free of charge to those who need them​​.

How can I get a cardiac service dog in Australia?

To get a service dog for a cardiac patient, you have some options depending on your specific needs and circumstances:

  1. Contact specialised organisations: As mentioned, there are organisations in Australia that provide assistance dogs for various medical conditions, including cardiac alert capabilities. They typically offer comprehensive training programs tailored to your specific health needs.. They can work with you to train a dog for specific tasks such as medication retrieval or emergency alerting in case of a cardiac event​.
  2. Apply through medical alert programs: Another avenue is through programs that focus on medical alert dogs, like those offered by Australian Lions Hearing Dogs. They have programs specifically designed for medical alert needs, although their primary focus might be on conditions such as diabetes. It’s worth contacting them to inquire whether they can cater to cardiac-specific alerting needs or if they can direct you to another service that does.
  3. Private training:You can also consider training your own dog with the help of professional trainers who specialise in medical alert capabilities. This process includes assessing whether your dog has the suitable temperament and then undergoing specialised training that involves scent discrimination and alert signaling​.
  4. Funding assistance: For those who qualify under disability criteria, support might be available through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), which can help cover costs associated with obtaining and maintaining an assistance dog. This can include the purchase, training, and ongoing expenses like food and vet care.
A little boy with Autism spends time with his Assistance Dog

How do I insure my cardiac service dog?

Blue Badge Insurance offers assistance dog insurance to cover your cardiac service dog. We’ll reimburse you for vet costs quickly so you can give your dog the care it needs without hesitation.

Learn about getting up to 25% off Assistance Dogs Insurance and up to 15% off pet insurance using your disability parking permit. Click below to get a quote before deciding whether you’d like to get pet or service dog insurance.

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