Effectiveness of PTSD Service Dogs
A report on PTSD service dogs, Effectiveness of Psychiatric Service Dogs in the Treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder among Veterans, by Dr. James Gillett, PhD, Mcmaster University and Rachel Weldrick, BA, McMaster University, states "there are many clear advantages to using psychiatric service dogs", and findings from a 2009 survey distributed by the US military reported:
- 82% of those with a PTSD diagnosis reported symptom reduction after partnership with a service dog.
- Another 40% reported that their use of medication decreased.
- Source: The Use of Psychiatric Service Dogs in the Treatment of Veterans with PTSD. Craig Love Ph.D., US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, Fort Detrick, MD, 2009.
- Improving quality of life
- Reducing limitations on daily activities
- Improvements of PTSD symptoms
- Less use of medication
- Less depression
- Improving sleep quality
- Reducing suicide ideation
- Increasing in volunteering or job status
- Decreasing need of health care
- Reclusiveness: Canine accompanies handler outside the home.
- Night Terrors: Canine wakes handler.
- Startle Reaction: Canine-defined personal space perimeter.
- Neuro-chemical Imbalance: Team walks to stimulate endorphin production.
- Dissociative Flashback: Tactile stimulation mediates sensory re-integration and orientation to time/place.
- Startle Response: Alert to presence of others (i.e., 'pop a corner' or 'watch my back’) work--leveraging a dog's natural senses.
- Emotional Regulation: Canine as therapeutic distraction.
- Sensory Overload: Canine as alternate focus.
- Social Withdrawal: Canine-facilitated interpersonal interaction, which helps with community integration.
- Lack of Insight: Canine alert to emotional escalation, by leveraging a dog's natural senses.
- Hyper-vigilance: Canine environmental threat assessment work by leveraging a dog's natural senses
- Hallucinations: Canine-facilitated reality testing by leveraging a dog's natural senses.
Lessen perception of physical pain.
Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, Braun, C., Stangler, T., Narveson, J., & Pettingell, S. (2009). 15(2), 105-109.
Journal of Holistic Nursing: Official Journal of the American Holistic Nurses' Association Sobo, E. J., Eng, B., & Kassity-Krich, N. (2006). , 24(1), 51-57.
Decrease agitation and aggression.
Western Journal of Nursing Research, McCabe, B. W., Baun, M. M., Speich, D., & Agrawal, S. (2002). 24(6), 684-696.
Increase social interaction and ability to manage daily living.
International Psychogeriatrics/IPA. Filan, S. L., & Llewellyn-Jones, R. H. (2006). 18(4), 597-611.
Lower blood pressure and heart rate.
Psychosomatic Medicine, Allen, K., Blascovich, J., & Mendes, W. B. (2002). 64(5), 727-739.
The Journals of Gerontology, Series A, Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences. Banks, M. R., & Banks, W. A. (2002). 57(7), M428-M432.
Ease anxiety or depression.
American Journal of Critical Care: An Official Publication, American Association of Critical-Care Nurses. Cole, K. M., Gawlinski, A., Steers, N., & Kotlerman, J. (2007). 16(6), 575-585; quiz 586; discussion 587-588.
- Remind the handler to take medication.
- Improve organization by reminding the handler to perform her or his daily routines.
- Wake the handler to prevent him or her from sleeping too much (hypersomnia).
- Provide tactile stimulation
- Reassure handler, both at home and in public
- Facilitate social interactions and reduce fear associated with meeting new people
- Assist handler in creating a safe personal space
- Assist handler when dealing with mood swings
- Serve as a buffer to calm handler and reduce feelings of emotional distress in crowded places
- Helping handler to calm down when agitated
- Reorienting and "grounding" handler to current place and time when struggling with PTSD episodes
- Assist the handler when he or she tries to to relax (self-soothe) in order to complete uncomfortable tasks.
- Provide companionship while in stores and other environments can reduce stress associated with daily activities.
- Alert when the handler is starting to experience anxiety problems reminding the handler to take his or her medication.
- Encourage the handler to be more social by getting him or her out of the house for walks. Walks also increase the amount of exercise the handler gets and improves his or her ability to self-sooth if they are struggling with insomnia, or having anxiety issues.
- Help the handler keep a constant schedule and will be a reason to get out of bed in the morning (walks, relieve themselves).