Increasing Use of Service Dogs As Therapy for PTSD

08 May 2012

Struggling to cope with an increasing number of veterans returning from combat with severe symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, the US military is experimenting with a number of alternate techniques to treat the disorder. One of the most successful of such techniques has been the use of service dogs.

An increasing number of veterans with severe symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder are being paired off with service dogs that are specifically trained for this purpose. Experts believe that there are numerous benefits from using dogs as a part of therapy for veterans who have seen and experienced so much in combat. Several organizations are now providing dogs for veterans, at little or no cost. A number of businesses that train dogs for use by the blind have diversified into training dogs for use by veterans.

Even Congress has ordered the Department Of Veterans Affairs to conduct a study into the effectiveness of using such service dogs as therapy for persons with post traumatic stress disorder. Some lawmakers are even considering a proposal that would finance the training of service dogs. Such training can be expensive, with a price tag of $15,000 per dog.

However, the benefits of dogs in helping treat PTSD have very little basis in science. There are few scientific studies that show that a service dog relieves symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder. Even California veteran’s benefits lawyers and people, who propagate the use of service dogs to help veterans with PTSD, admit that the dogs can't eliminate symptoms like anxiety and depression.

However, there seems to be some evidence that these dogs help veterans cope with flashbacks, nightmares and panic attacks. No one expects a service dog to dramatically relieve the symptoms of PTSD, but these animals can help veterans cope with their symptoms.