06 Jun 7 Ways Service Dogs Help Veterans With PTSD
Animals provide a range of therapeutic benefits for people at all stages and levels of their lives, making them worthy of the title “Man’s Best Friend.”
Veterans are one group of people who benefit from the assistance of therapy-trained and service dogs. They preserve the gorgeous American flag and serve the inhabitants of our country.
Trained therapy dogs have been shown to provide considerable and long-term benefits to veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to their military service. Even veterans who may not have PTSD can benefit from the company provided by service dogs.
Why veterans should consider a PTSD service dog?
Returning military veterans and service members often find it difficult to reintegrate into civilian life, especially if they have PTSD. As previously noted, PTSD symptoms can be devastating and include:
- Having panic attacks or anxiety attacks
- Emotional deregulation (such as angry outbursts, guilt, etc.)
- Anxiety and depression
- Rapid heartbeat
- Alcoholism and drug addiction
For many veterans, the symptoms of PTSD are so severe and distressing that they avoid any circumstance that might trigger them. Many veterans resort to dangerous activities to cope with their suffering, such as drinking or using drugs. Isolating oneself from family, friends, and public situations can also help military members manage.
Soldiers in need of treatment for PTSD, substance abuse, and other mental health issues can be saved. Veteran-specific care and service dog assistance can be quite beneficial in this situation. A PTSD service dog will provide you with a calming, trained resource to assist you in combating the symptoms of PTSD.
What is a PTSD Service Dog?
As defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a service animal is an animal that is carefully trained to perform tasks. Service dogs can assist with physical chores such as opening doors and other jobs specific to the owner’s requirements. Service dogs can also utilize their senses to help their owners, such as detecting when they are about to suffer a seizure or a panic attack.
A service dog for PTSD has been taught to do specific activities related to the owner’s mental health needs. Since soldiers with PTSD can suffer from severe symptoms, they often qualify for service dogs. When it comes to PTSD, service dogs can help a veteran get through everyday routines, social engagements, and additional treatment.
7 Ways PTSD Service Dogs can help veterans
Professional counseling is crucial for veterans with PTSD, but pets can also be life-changing. Researchers in psychology have begun to identify the therapeutic benefits of owning a dog. No matter what kind of dog soldiers choose, adopting one can be surprisingly beneficial. Here are seven ways that dogs can help you change your life:
1. Get active
Dogs encourage you to go out of the house, exercise and socialize with new people. Veterans suffering from depression and anxiety may wish to isolate themselves, but this only exacerbates their symptoms.
Owners should regularly walk their dogs to keep them in shape, and this is an excellent excuse to get them out of the house. Simply going out of the home might help you feel better, but doing some exercise in the process is also beneficial.
2. Improved life satisfaction
One of the most critical functions of therapy dogs for veterans is to distract from negative sensations that can occur unexpectedly, such as anxiety-inducing situations or hypervigilance in PTSD veterans.
The production of oxytocin in the brain has been shown to be linked to having a dog as a pet. This important neurochemical is released in your brain when you pat your dog, play with them, or simply talk to them as you go about your everyday life, resulting in feelings of calm, joy, happiness, and satisfaction.
An increased oxytocin release regularly can boost your mood, improve your self-perception, and improve your quality of life.
3. Rebuild trust
The love and trust of a dog can help people with PTSD. Most dogs are loyal to their owners and are usually there for them whenever they need them. As PTSD can impact one’s trust skills, knowing that you can rely on your dog can help you rebuild that trust.
4. Lower absenteeism from work
The dogs are taught to be assistance animals and to do duties that help soldiers cope with the effects of battle trauma. A study of veterans reported lower levels of depression, reduced PTSD symptoms, and fewer absences from work due to health problems among those who used service dogs.
Service animals are a novel strategy that could lead to long-term outcomes for a major medical problem because of their strong impact on PTSD symptoms.
5. Give more love
Dogs elicit feelings of love and unconditional love. Many persons with PTSD are self-conscious about their disease or how it affects their social interactions. When you’re down, it’s easy to push loved ones away, but your dog is always there to cheer you up.
6. Transition to civilian life
Dogs can be trained and are excellent at following directions, which is very useful for veterans who give orders. Adapting to civilian life without authority may be challenging for veterans. Veterans can put their command abilities to good use by training a dog.
7. Feel protected
Due to nightmares, horrible flashbacks, anxiety, and sadness, patients with PTSD may feel vulnerable. There is comfort in knowing that your dog is always with you, assuring you that you are not alone.
Dogs like German Shepherds, for instance, are big breeds that are capable of guarding their masters. Even if you will never find yourself in a situation that calls for it, it’s still reassuring.
Will the VA pay for a service dog?
When paired with the owner, the dog must have current vaccinations, but the Department of Veterans Affairs will cover subsequent immunizations. In some cases, the dog is on a doctor-recommended diet, and compensation is determined on a case-by-case basis.
The VA Prosthetic & Sensory Aids Service provides veterinarian care and equipment to working service dogs prescribed by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Veterinary care includes prescription drugs, office visits for medical procedures, and dental procedures performed under sedation. The policy covers one sedation dental procedure annually. However, the VA does not cover the costs of boarding, grooming, food, or other ordinary expenses for pets.
Also Read: Complete Guide to Your VA Benefits
Other ways of coping with PTSD
When you have PTSD, you may feel as though you will never be able to reclaim your life. However, it is treatable. It’s crucial to think about the obligations of having a pet or a service animal before acquiring one. Consider whether you are physically, mentally, and financially capable of caring for it.
If you can’t handle a dog, choose a low-maintenance pet or look for other alternatives.
Here are a few coping mechanisms that you might find helpful.
- Mindfulness meditation. A review of mindfulness-based therapies indicates that a few of them help reduce the avoidance symptoms and self-blame associated with PTSD.
- Engage in physical activity to regain focus. Many people diagnosed with PTSD claim that finding a fun physical activity that they can do regularly has helped them manage their symptoms and lessen their stress levels.
- CBD helps fight depression and stabilizes mood. Human ingestion of CBD oil has been demonstrated to be safe. There are multiple clinical studies and a lot of anecdotal evidence suggesting that CBD can help our warriors with many of the issues they face today. CBD is becoming a popular choice for many veterans, as it helps to treat symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, chronic pain, and more.
Also Read: 2022 Active Military CBD Policy
How to Adopt a Dog
Pet adoption is a serious decision that cannot be taken lightly. Dogs can assist with PTSD, but before getting one, make sure you’re ready and able to care for one. Many organizations connect veterans with pet adoption agencies and other pet ownership options if they are prepared to adopt. Rescue organizations and animal shelters may also be able to help.
The Department of Veterans Affairs can help veterans who require a service animal. The veteran’s case will be reviewed by the VA and assessed by a clinician. The veteran will be judged on a list of criteria, which will include the following:
- Families and caregivers must be able and willing to care for the dog now and in the future.
- Goals to be achieved with the assistance of the dog.
- Goals that can be met by utilizing other assistive technology or therapy.
Veterans who request a service dog will be referred to Assistance Dogs International agencies and won’t be charged for the service dog or the training.
Veterans can get help for PTSD.
Even if you’ve lived in your home for 40 years or recently returned from the military, seeking therapy for PTSD is never too late. Counseling or treatment can assist you in managing your symptoms and preventing them from worsening.
- Call the VA Health Benefits Service Center toll-free at 1-877-222-VETS, or go to My HealtheVet for information about VA health care, services, and locations for veterans.
- For more information or to find a facility near you, call 1-800-905-4675 or go online to the Vet Center’s website.
Check out the National Center for PTSD’s website for more information on PTSD resources.