United States Department of Veterans Affairs

Guide and Service Dogs Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

To support an active and independent lifestyle VA provides benefits for guide and service dogs.  The job of a guide dog is to assist the blind.  A service dog assists someone with a severe to profound hearing impairment or someone with a physical impairment that substantially limits mobility.

  1. What is the difference between a guide dog and a service dog?

  2. How do I determine if I am eligible for a service dog through VA?

  3. Does VA actually provide the guide or service dog?

  4. If it is determined that I am eligible for a service dog, what benefits does VA provide for my guide or service dog?

  5. Does a service dog serve the same function(s) as Animal Assisted Therapy or Animal Assisted Activity dogs?


1.  What is the difference between a guide dog and a service dog?

A guide dog is trained to assist the blind.  A service dog is trained to help those with severe to profound hearing loss by alerting the individual to a variety of sounds or someone with a physical impairment that substantially limits mobility  by assisting in the performance of a wide variety of tasks depending on need and training (e.g. opening doors, retrieving, etc.).

Return to Top

2.  How do I determine if I am eligible for a service dog through VA?

To receive any type of medical service through VA, you must register at the Health Administration/enrollment section of a VA Medical Center or online:  http://vabenefits.vba.va.gov/vonapp/main.asp. Once registered, a referral to a specialist may be requested through the assigned VA primary care provider. The Veteran's VA medical team will perform a complete clinical evaluation to determine how best to assist the Veteran.  Each guide and service dog request is reviewed and evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Return to Top

3.  Does VA actually provide the guide or service dog?

 No. Veterans approved for guide or service dogs are referred to accredited agencies.  Many of these organizations do not charge for the dog or the dog's training.

Return to Top

4.  If it is determined that I am eligible for a service dog, what benefits does VA provide for my guide or service dog?

VA will pay for veterinary care and the equipment (e.g. harness and/or backpack) required for optimal use of the dog. Veterinary care includes prescribed medications, office visits for medical procedures, and dental procedures where the dog is sedated (one sedated dental procedure will be covered annually). Vaccinations should be current when the dog is provided to the Veteran through an accredited agency. Subsequent vaccinations will be covered by VA. Prescribed food will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

Veterinary care does not include over-the-counter medications, food, treats and nonsedated dental care. Flea and tick medications are considered over-the-counter and are the responsibility of the Veteran along with over-the-counter dental care products (bones, dental treats, etc.). Grooming, boarding and other routine expenses are not covered.

Return to Top

5.  Does a service dog serve the same function(s) as Animal Assisted Therapy or Animal Assisted Activity dogs?

No. Animal Assisted Therapy and Animal Assisted Activity dogs are used either to assist therapists to accomplish therapeutic goals or for general engagement of the patients.  Neither type of dogs is for personal use by the Veteran. They are used only in a medical setting.

Return to Top