VA Studies Benefits of Service Dogs for Veterans Suffering from PTSD
Ask a vet with a service dog and he’ll tell you story after story about how his companion has helped him through depression and anxiety and back to a more normal life.
But according to the Veteran’s Administration, that’s just anecdotal evidence. They want scientific proof. And without it, they have no intention of putting money into supporting service dogs for vets with post traumatic stress disorder.
Essential for a Functional Life
One vet who has a fund of anecdotal evidence is Russel Keyser, currently living at a veteran’s home in New York. He still suffers from violent nightmares from his time in Kosovo.
But his sidekick Artemis has reduced those nightmares, as well as debilitating anxiety and mood swings. His dog is a Belgian Malinois that provides comfort and protection when the PTSD kicks in.
Keyser reports that Artemis nibbles his fingers when he becomes anxious. If he has a nightmare, the dog licks his face. If he becomes overwhelmed, she jumps on him and grabs his hand, telling him to move on.
Without Artemis, Keyser says, he wouldn’t be able to get out into public places, where he can find the help he needs. Until the dog came into his life, he was unable to go out into public areas to get treatment.
An Expensive Necessity
Artemis came to Keyser by way of Paws of War, a nonprofit that rescued the dog and trained her to work with PTSD sufferers. The charity provided the dog and also helps with veterinary expenses.
Owning any dog isn’t cheap. A support dog is just plain expensive. Training one takes time and expert resources. Once the vet is paired with the dog, it needs quality food and regular veterinary care. For a vet with minimal income, it can be impossible.
Getting the VA to Help
The Veteran’s Administration is not against dogs helping vets. In fact, they currently provide financial help to provide support dogs for vets with problems seeing, moving around and hearing.
But the agency is not convinced that the dogs help with PTSD. There are no comprehensive scientific studies that prove it helps. The VA says that so far the proof is “inconclusive.” And that’s the sticking point.
Says Michael Fallon, the chief veterinary medical officer for the agency, “The VA is based on evidence-based medicine. We want people to use therapy that has proven value.”
The VA did start a study in 2010, and restarted it in 2012. Both times the research ended prematurely because of dogs biting children or due to dog health and training issues. A new study is currently in the works, scheduled to finish in 2019.
Meanwhile, vets like Keyser depend on their service dogs to function. As he said, “How it works, I don’t know. I don’t care.” He just knows that with Artemis, a functioning life is possible.
Register Your Support Dog
USA Service Dog Registration understands how important support dogs, as well as therapy and emotional support animals, are to their people. That’s why they have a simple, 3-step process so people can register their dogs. And it’s free!
The site offers resources explaining where service dogs are permitted, types of conditions they help with, airline requirements, trainers, housing laws and more.
They also have an online store with a range of useful products, including ID tags, patches, vests, collars and leads.
Visit USA Service Dog Registration today to register your dog and to find the information you need about your service dog.