Latest research: Assistance dogs can reduce the severity of PTSD in veterans

According to a study, assistance dogs can alleviate some symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder in veterans. Study by our team published in June 2024 within the medical journal JAMA Network Open.

Over the last decade, Our research group investigates whether trained service dogs can assist veterans with PTSD – a mental illness that some people develop after experiencing a traumatic event.

Based on our preliminary findings, we conducted the first and largest clinical study of its kind to guage this complementary intervention.

We recruited 156 post-9/11 veterans from the waiting list of K9s for Warriorsa nonprofit organization that matches trained service dogs with veterans affected by PTSD. Of that total, 81 received service dogs and 75 remained on the waiting list throughout the three-month study. Most were deployed and had served within the military, three-quarters were male, and the common age was 38.

All veterans initially accomplished online well-being surveys and were interviewed by experienced clinicians about their PTSD symptoms. We conducted follow-up assessments for 3 months after they either received a service dog or remained on the waitlist.

Those with assistance dogs had less severe symptoms and a greater quality of life. For example, they suffered less from depression and anxiety and were in a greater mood. They also had significantly lower probabilities of Diagnostic criteria for PTSD.

These results provide the clearest evidence to this point that service dogs are greater than just pets. Our findings suggest that working with these trained animals can provide life-saving advantages for energetic and retired military personnel.

Post-traumatic stress disorder could make it difficult for veterans to thrive.

Why it is necessary

With greater than 17 US military veterans die by suicide each day, their mental health is a pressing issue. Up to 29% of post-9/11 veterans are diagnosed with PTSD in some unspecified time in the future.
Some treatments for PTSD There are options, reminiscent of exposure therapy and medicine. But barriers to care, stigma and high drop height Prices from treatment programs limit their effectiveness; due to this fact, there’s pressure to search out additional treatment options.

For example, there’s recent research on the Consumption of the drug MDMAcombined with psychotherapy, for PTSD. The Food and Drug Administration Advisory Panel voted against approval in June 2024 using the drug to treat PTSD resulting from concerns about safety and potential for abuse.

Service dogs are trained to perform specific tasks to help with a disability. For veterans with PTSD, a dog’s role is perhaps to interrupt a panic attack or lay on the veteran’s lap to calm them down. People with disabilities have a Legal right to be accompanied by your assistance dog in public, be it in a supermarket or at a baseball game.

Our findings can provide information to policymakers, health professionals, and insurance firms concerning the value of service dogs for veterans with PTSD and potentially result in increased funding for groups that train and place service dogs and reduce wait times.

What's next

We conduct a Randomized clinical trial called Service Dog and Veteran Experiences Study, or SERVES. It is conducted in collaboration with K9s For Warriors and Dog companionone other nonprofit organization that trains and provides service dogs for veterans.

In this next study, we can have a randomly chosen group of veterans receive a service dog early or remain on the waiting list as a control group. We will follow these veterans for 12 months – as an alternative of just three months – after they receive or don’t receive a service dog.

The SERVES study will likely be followed by one other randomized clinical trial funded by the Department of Defense. It will examine whether Partnerships with assistance dogs can increase effectiveness from prolonged exposure therapyan existing gold standard treatment for PTSD.

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