Service Dogs: Proving Man’s Best Friend to Veterans with PTSD

Greg Hitchcock interviews Paul and Tina from Mountains to Miracles Veterans’ Foundation in Amsterdam, NY about their Woofs for Warriors program. Woofs for Warriors trains and matches service dogs to qualified veterans living with disabilities.

When I first got to the Adaptive Sports Foundation in upstate New York’s Catskill Mountains, Greene County to be exact, I ran across another veteran with a service dog. I immediately discovered she was suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). That dog was her lifeline to better health.

Studies show that service dogs help veterans cope with their PTSD symptoms. For example, Purdue University conducted a study in 2018 with 73 veterans and discovered that those using service dogs produced a higher level of cortisol production, a hormone involved in processing stress.

However, more evidence-based treatments to treat PTSD are recommended by the VA including psychotherapy and medications.  According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, dogs are not an effective replacement for treating veterans with PTSD symptoms.

Animal Shelters offer hope for lost, abandoned and stray animals. One particular dog has found a place in the hearts and minds of volunteers and staff of a local shelter.

Currently, the VA does not provide service dogs for physical or mental health conditions, including PTSD. VA does provide veterinary care for service dogs deemed medically necessary for veterans with permanent physical impairments. If research supports the use of service dogs for PTSD, VA will provide veterinary care for such dogs.

Studies are being done by the VA that will provide further information as to the effectiveness of service dogs for veterans with PTSD. It may take years, but in the meantime, my veteran friend’s dog is a great companion to her.

Dogs can make great pets. Having a dog as a pet can benefit anyone who likes dogs, including people with PTSD. For example, dogs:

  • Help bring out feelings of love.
  • Are good companions.
  • Take orders well when trained. This can be very comfortable for a Servicemember or Veteran who was used to giving orders in the military.
  • Are fun and can help reduce stress.
  • Are a good reason to get out of the house, spend time outdoors, and meet new people.

I grew up with dogs. My first dog was a Dalmatian, a known service dog for firefighters caught in blazes; German Shepherds are great at policing areas searching for drugs and other contraband; Dobermans make excellent guard dogs.

So, who is to say if veterans and their dogs make compatible companions in life? I for one know that dogs provide love and protection. They should be respected for that.

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