Veterans who are dealing with the everyday stress of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) know that living with this condition certainly does not make life any easier. Some veterans experience symptoms such as nightmares, flashbacks, or feelings of anger and irritability. When the treatment and medications do not seem to work, a service dog may be a great alternative to help deal with the symptoms of PTSD.
Right now there is insufficient research to know if dogs can actually help treat PTSD and its symptoms. However, there are great emotional benefits that may help veterans who are dealing with symptoms of PTSD. Some of the benefits include the following:
- Dogs can be trained to take orders or commands. This can be very comforting for veterans who were used to giving orders in the military.
- Dogs can help reduce stress.
- They are great companions.
- They are a good reason to get out of the house, especially for those who struggle with PTSD.
It is very important to note the difference between a service dog and an emotional support dog. A service dog is a trained to do a specific task for a person that he/she cannot do because of their disability. For example, service dogs are able to pick things up; they can be used to guide a person with poor vision or one that is blind. They are also used to help someone who falls and loses balance easily. An emotional support dog or animal is a pet that helps their owner with a mental health condition. The emotional support animal can give friendship and companionship. Depending on the severity of the mental health condition, it is good to understand which kind of support dog may be needed.
What is Important to know about dogs and PTSD?
Like any animal or pet, a service or emotional support dog would need an owner who can provide for them. Dogs require constant attention and care. For a veteran who is struggling with PTSD and is worried that it may be too hard to provide and take care of the animal, it may be a good idea to seek other treatment first before considering a service or emotional support dog.
Where is the VA in all of this?
Currently, the VA is undergoing research to better understand if a dog can provide a disability service for veterans with PTSD. The VA has already started a research study to help determine if there are things that a dog can do that would qualify the animal as a service dog specifically for PTSD. This research is expected to take a few years to complete. As of right now, the VA does not provide service dogs for veterans with physical or mental health conditions. Veterans who are approved for a guide or service dogs are referred to accredited agencies. If research supports the use of service dogs for PTSD, the VA will provide veterinary care for the service dog.