How Dogs Can Help Combat Vets with PTSD

Low VA Rates Low VA Rates / Published Jun 2, 2016, 11:25 AM

Man’s Best Friend Could Save Your Life

It’s been said that a dog is man’s best friend. But what if dogs could also be the key to a soldier’s mental health after serving our country during combat? There hasn’t been a lot of research or hard evidence about the effects of emotional support dogs on veterans with PTSD, but with the increasing number of success stories, that is changing. Although the companionship of emotional support dogs should not be used in place of professional care, they can be an immense help in addition to a veteran’s medicines, therapies, and/or treatments. Find out how dogs are helping combat veterans who struggle with PTSD. 

This short video clip demonstrates how some emotional support animals can be of help to returning combat vets.

PTSD Explained

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental illness brought on by experiencing horrifying, life-threatening, and dangerous events, like fighting in a war or living through a natural disaster. People with PTSD suffer from sever anxiety, flashbacks that feel intensely real, overwhelming and ever-present thoughts and memories of the events, and nightmares. These fears and anxieties spur behaviors that make it difficult to carry out simple, everyday tasks and experiences. For example, a veteran who experienced torture from a captor may not trust strangers and may be afraid of standing near or talking to people they aren’t familiar with. Or perhaps a veteran was injured in an explosion, which makes him afraid to enter a building unless he knows it’s safe and secure.

Emotional Support Dogs for Veterans

It’s important to know that service dogs and emotional support dogs are two different things. Support dogs are trained to help those who are physically disabled by learning to do things that their handlers can’t, and they are officially certified to be classified as support dogs. Emotional support dogs are not officially certified, and they are trained differently. Emotional support dogs can be trained to stand near their handler while in public, making sure that strangers stay at a safe distance away. Dogs can also be trained to walk through the house or building to assure their owners that the space is safe and secure. But the benefits of having an emotional support dog don’t end there. For veterans that experience bitterness or anger at their experiences, having a dog can help draw out and capitalize on feelings of love and acceptance. They also make good companions for those who fear being left alone. The possibilities for help are endless.

Veteran Organizations that Provide Emotional Support Animals

K9s For Warriors

K9s For Warriors is an organization that specializes in providing emotional support dogs for veterans experiencing PTSD. According to their website, their mission is to “empower them [veterans] to return to civilian life with dignity and independence” with the help of canines. K9s For Warriors trains rescue dogs to pick up on signs from their owners that they are experiencing severe anxiety, flashbacks, or nightmares and then  help calm them down. Each dog is specifically paired with a veteran, and the organization boasts a 100% success rate since their beginning in 2011. They have never had a veteran/dog pair fail, and they have saved many soldiers who have contemplated suicide.

Watch this touching video that expands on a real-life success story from K9s for Warriors. Patriot PAWS

Patriot PAWS is another organization striving to provide service animals for veterans. While K9s For Warriors deals specifically with veterans with PTSD, Patriot PAWS provides service animals for veterans with physical disabilities as well as mental illnesses. They also work to personally pair service animals and veterans for a successful road to recovery.

If you suffer from PTSD, making a new furry friend could help. It’s important to reiterate, however, that using an emotional support dog should not be used to replace clinical PTSD treatment, but instead should be used in conjunction with that treatment. If you decide to invite a new pet into your family, Low VA Rates wants to make sure you have the right home for your existing family and your new addition. To learn more about how our team of experienced loan officers can help, please visit our website.

Emotional Support Animals/Dogs Help Some Combat Veterans with PTSD