Service Dogs Help Veterans with PTSD

Posted by Marilyn Lash, M.S.W. on 10th Dec 2010

There’s some really interesting research being funded by the Department of Defense on the use of psychiatric service dogs to help veterans deal with the psychological wounds of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many veterans who have received service dogs are reporting dramatic decreases in the symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as well as the use of medications.

Service dogs help these veterans determine the safety of their environment and make it easier for them to leave home and go into public places. Prior to this, many veterans with PTSD were so anxious and under such stress in public that they were constantly scanning for snipers, bombs and other dangers. The dogs are trained to jolt a veteran from a flashback which is a classic symptom of PTSD. Dogs can also be trained to dial 911 for emergency assistance and they may even be able to sense a panic attack before it begins.

This program is funded under the Service Dogs for Veterans Act. Under a pilot program run by the Department of Veterans Affairs, veterans with PTSD receive service dogs. It costs about $20,000 to train a psychiatric service dog and match it with a veteran. Previously service dogs were primarily used for veterans who had lost their vision or had severe physical wounds. Given the large number of veterans dealing with PTSD as they return from war zones, this innovative program offers promising hope.

We’d like to hear your thoughts and comments about this new program.