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Published: Aug 30, 2012

Most dog owners know that the old saying that a dog is man's best friend is true. And now, the medical community seems to be embracing the use of pets to help human health more than ever before.

According to a recent report from CNN, an increasing number of Americans are getting dogs to help with people's mental states. They're known as psychiatric service dogs, and they can help individuals deal with a wide range of conditions including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

'He knows if something is wrong, and I can't figure it out," Sgt. Charles Hernandez, who is retired from the U.S. National Guard and suffers from PTSD, told the news provider about his service animal, Valor.

But these animals can also provide help for those who suffer from other mental problems. According to the Psychiatric Service Dog Society (PSDS), specially-trained animals can aid individuals who are bi-polar, depressed, obsessive compulsive and schizophrenic, as well as those who suffer from extreme anxiety or panic attacks.

Experts say that many breeds and sizes of dogs can function as psychiatric service dogs. However, the PSDS says breeds that commonly have breathing problems such as the Boxer, Pekinese, Pug, Bulldog and Shih-Tzu are not recommended. Additionally, those interested in obtaining a service dog should consider that a large animal may make certain tasks, such as traveling with your dog, difficult.

While obtaining a service dog can be a time-consuming endeavor, it's important for anyone who intends to get a helpful pet consider the responsibilities of caring for an animal and maintaining his or her optimum pet health beforehand.

A yearly physical exam at a veterinary hospital is recommended regardless of breed. Speak to a vet with any specific questions or concerns about a particular breed.