New Study Looks at the Effectiveness of Service Dogs for Vets with PTSD

Medical service dogs have a proven track record of being a necessary companion for many disabled veterans. While service dogs have been in use for decades to help physically disabled veterans perform daily tasks, little research exists regarding the emotional support of service dogs for veterans with mental illness or conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Researchers attempted a study on the usefulness of emotional support dogs for veterans with PTSD a few years ago, but suspended it shortly after due to reports of dog bites. Ultimately, the research was canceled.

A new endeavor began in December 2014 and seeks to bring the question back to the table with a larger, more comprehensive study. The new study brings 220 veterans from three regions of the U.S. – Atlanta, Iowa City, and Portland – and pairs them with either a service dog or an emotional support dog.

The dogs are trained for drastically different purposes. Service dogs receive training for five basic abilities that help alert the dog to their veteran’s physical needs such as bringing objects or searching for people in a room before a veteran enters. Emotional support dogs are not trained to perform specific commands, but are trained to provide comfort and companionship. Researchers will conduct home visits with the veterans participating in the study for the next two years.

Veterans who already own service dogs praise their canine companions not only on their physical assistance, but their emotional comfort and help as well. Many veterans say that they received the dogs to help with physical disabilities, but the dogs helped with the mental anguish and PTSD common in many wounded warriors.

Emotional support dogs are currently not allowed in as many places as service dogs. But the results of this study may affect those rules if researchers find the emotional support dogs to be mentally beneficial.

For a veteran to obtain a service dog or emotional support dog, he or she must have a diagnosis of a physical or mental disability that warrants the extra assistance. Applying for veterans’ disability benefits is a step toward getting the full treatment and benefits available to veterans and their families through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Veterans Help Group ® assists disabled veterans and their families when the VA has denied their disability claim or given a low disability rating. Call today – 1-855-855-8992.