Science Confirms Value of Service Dogs for PTSD
Do service dogs really make a difference for vets with post-traumatic stress syndrome? According to a study at Purdue University, the answer is a resounding YES.
The study, reported in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, looked at a number of factors related to emotional health. Those vets with service dogs showed higher scores in:
- Satisfaction with their life
- Mental health
- Ability to socialize
In the case of life satisfaction, vets with a service dog had a 22 percent higher rate than those without a dog.
The published study is the largest scientific evaluation of how effective service dogs for those suffering from PTSD. Working with K9s for Warriors, researchers checked with 141 vets in two categories, those who already had a dog, and those who had requested but not yet been paired with a dog. All the of the vets in the study had access to standard care for PTSD throughout the review.
The study did not show a difference between the physical health of participants with dogs and without. But vets with dogs said they missed work fewer times and dealt with on-the-job health problems less often.
The study looked at psychiatric service dogs, not emotional support animals or therapy animals. These dogs have gone through rigorous training that teaches them how to reduce PTSD symptoms, including anxiety, hypervigilance, nightmares and feelings of isolation.
“A Change for the Positive”
The outcome of the study isn’t news for vets with service dogs. Take Stacy Pearsall, an Air Force combat photographer who worked in a war zone. She is a survivor, having endured two roadside bombs, and now deals with PTSD, traumatic brain injury, hearing loss and cervical spine trauma.
“The people I work with consistently have noticed a change in my demeanor,” she says, since she got her service dog, Charlie. He soothes her when she has a nightmare and lets her know when someone is behind her. As her stress has gone done, she has experienced fewer seizures. Instead of one or two each week, she has had just one a month since Charlie came into her life.
“OK to Go Out into the World”
Another member of the study is Randy Dexter, who described himself as a “suicidal mess” before his service dog Captain came into his life. Dexter says with the dog at his side, he is far less isolated and depressed.
After teaming up with Captain, Dexter went on to become a campus director and is going to college classes. The dog checks out the environment and people when they are outside. Dexter says he watches Captain’s body language instead of scanning rooftops and faces.
Dexter had little luck with prescription medicine for PTSD, which made little difference in how he dealt with the world. But then he met Captain. “Not only did he save my life, he’s made it better . . . than I ever thought it could be.”
Resources and Gear for Your Service Animal
The team at USA Service Animal Registration is committed to helping these working dogs and their owners feel safe, comfortable and supported. That’s why the website offers a simple 3-step registration process. And it’s free!
The site has a wide range of information and resources for owners, including:
- Individual state laws
- Questions that business owners can ask people with a service dog
- Service dog placement for vets
- List of trainers
Looking for gear for your service dog? USA Service Animal Registration has an online store with a variety of gear, like patches, vests, leashes, and ID.
Check out USA Service Animal Registration today to register your service dog, get answers to your questions, and to find the gear you need.