Veterans, PTSD, and Assistance Dogs
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, anywhere between 11 - 30% of U.S. veterans who have been in combat suffer from PTSD at some point in their lifetime. A variety of treatment options exist to help those affected cope with their symptoms.
Assistance Dogs International (ADI) recently released encouraging data to show that assistance dogs (also referred to as service dogs) reduce symptoms and boost wellbeing among veterans with PTSD. The recent press release shows that seven scientific studies found that assistance dog training and partnering produced “moderate-to-significant” lowering of PTSD symptom scores in line with those reported in gold-standard trials of trauma interventions supported by the US Department of Veterans Affairs.
The studies, carried out over the past five years, looked at a range of programs, from partnering veterans with fully-trained assistance dogs to teaching veterans how to train assistance dogs. All seven studies found reduced PTSD symptoms after participants completed service dog handling instruction. Two others, which used follow-up measures, found long-term reduction in symptoms.
“Assistance dogs improve the lives of countless thousands of veterans around the world by helping with practical tasks, enhancing independence, and boosting wellbeing, dignity and confidence,” said Chris Diefenthaler, Executive Director of Assistance Dogs International (ADI). “These studies indicate that properly trained assistance dogs are both life-saving and life-changing for veterans suffering from PTSD. They are proof that assistance dogs have a major role to play in the treatment, rehabilitation and support of military veterans with severe combat trauma.” Read the full press release here.
This evidence-based data is encouraging to our team at America’s VetDogs, where we provide service dogs at no cost to veterans, active-duty service members, and first responders who suffer from a wide range of disabilities, including PTSD. Our mission since 2003 has been to provide enhanced mobility and renewed independence, allowing them to, once again, live with pride and self-reliance.
Do you or someone you know suffer from combat-related PTSD? Having your own service dog may improve quality of life. Learn more on how service dogs can help or apply online at VetDogs.org.