Service dogs can help veterans with PTSD – growing evidence shows they may reduce anxiety in practical ways


Leanne Nieforth, Purdue University and Marguerite E. OHaire, Purdue University Of the approximately 2.7 million Americans deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, approximately one-fifth suffer from post-traumatic stress Exciting obstacles. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health problem that some people experience or witness a life-threatening traumatic event. It is a complex disease and may be difficult to treat. Our laboratory is studying whether service dogs can help these veterans, who, in addition to PTSD, may also suffer from depression and anxiety, and have an increased risk of suicide and death. We found that once veterans with PTSD get a service dog, they tend to feel less frustrated and anxious, and miss work less frequently. Complements other forms of treatment Traditional PTSD treatments, such as psychotherapy and medication, are effective for many veterans. However, these methods do not reduce symptoms for all veterans, which is why more and more veterans are seeking additional help from service dogs with PTSD. An estimated 500,000 service dogs nationwide help people with various illnesses, including visual or hearing impairment, psychological problems, epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis. For our PTSD research, we collaborated with K9s For Warriors and the Canine Companions for Independence, two of the many non-profit organizations that train service dogs to work with veterans with PTSD. 4,444 service dogs provide assistance to people with various disabilities, including post-traumatic stress disorder. There is no single race that can help people in this way. These dogs can be anything from purebred Labradors to mixed shelters. Unlike treatment or emotional support dogs, service dogs must be trained to perform specific tasks; in this case, it helps relieve PTSD symptoms. In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, service dogs can enter public places where other dogs are not allowed. Reduce anxiety Service dogs can help veterinarians with PTSD in many ways. The most common tasks include helping veterans stay calm and interrupting their anxiety. The veterans said they asked their dogs to ease their anxiety or comfort them five times a day, and their dogs independently interrupted their anxiety three times a day. For example, a dog may "cover" a veteran in a supermarket and ask his owner to calmly turn around and take something off the shelf, because if a veteran with PTSD does not know if someone is approaching, he may panic and benefit from their help. The dog signals that this is happening. If the veteran begins to have a panic attack, the service dog can push his owner to "remind" him and interrupt the anxiety. At this point, veterans can focus on petting the dog and getting back to the present; it is best to prevent or minimize panic attacks. In addition to the task of training their dogs, veterans also shared that the love and company they get from getting along with dogs is helping their PTSD to be easier to manage. After receiving service dogs, veterans were described in the survey as being more satisfied with their lives, indicating that they felt happier and felt that they had better relationships with friends and relatives. We also measured the cortisol levels of veterans with service dogs, commonly referred to as the "stress hormone." We found that their pattern is closer to adults without PTSD. Other challenges and responsibilities Not all veterans are willing or able to benefit from having their own service dog. The company of a dog in public can attract the attention of veterans. Some veterans appreciate this attention and the way it encourages them to get out of trouble, while others worry about having to avoid well-meaning strangers and dog lovers. We found that veterans do not expect this kind of challenge, but they do experience it often. Service dogs may also make travel difficult, because carrying a dog may require more planning and effort, especially because many people do not understand the legal rights of those who own a service dog, and may ask inappropriate questions or set laws Obstacles are not allowed to do it. Many experts believe that promoting service dogs to the public can alleviate these challenges. In addition, feeding, walking the dog, grooming and caring for the dog also entail additional responsibilities, including ensuring that you visit the veterinarian from time to time. may also have a new sense of stigma, accompanied by exposing disability that may be hidden. People with PTSD may not stand out unless they have a service dog who is always around. Most veterans say it is worthwhile because the benefits often outweigh the challenges, especially when the right expectations are set. Doctors can help veterans realize in advance what is needed to care for animals, so that intervention is positive for both veterans and dogs. We are now completing the first registered clinical trial to compare what happens when these veterans receive the usual PTSD intervention and what happens when they receive the same treatment except for a well-trained service dog. As research progresses, we are trying to understand how the impact of service dogs persists over time, how service dogs affect the families of veterans, and how we can support partnerships between veterans and their service dogs. Chapter Chapter Purdue University Students and Marguerite E. Haire, Associate Professor of Human-Animal Interaction, Purdue University
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