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Posted on Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

New research looks at PTSD therapy through dogs

dogs help with ptsd

A surprising solution to post-traumatic stress disorder may be found in the comfort of dogs. A recent story in the Hampton Roads, Va. Daily Press quoted a Marine on the solace he has found in bonding with a pet.

“They can lick your hand and snap you back into reality, so you don’t have an outburst,” noted Sgt. Matthew Miller. “He doesn’t judge you. He’s always at your side, giving you whatever help you need,” he said about his German shepherd, Magnus.

VA Study, future benefits
The emotional support of dogs – particularly in frightening or trigger situations – highlights the aid pet ownership may provide for those living with PTSD, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Forbes recently reported that the studies on pet ownership and coping with PTSD are being undertaken with greater vigor, and future studies are currently in planning stages. According to the news source, the VA recently sought to resume studying the connection between PTSD and pet-ownership, which may help open the door for veterans to bring their dogs into otherwise off-limits locations.

Dogs and anxiety
Dogs may provide an emotional component to treatment not found in traditional medical approaches to PTSD and other anxiety disorders. Although it’s still a more experimental type of therapy, it’s not without a scientific basis. For example, Smithsonian Magazine reported that a loving relationship with a dog could produce elevated levels of oxytocin. This hormone is essential in dealing with paranoia and other anti-social aspects of anxiety.

Furthermore, the source noted that a firm bond with a dog might provide tools enabling an individual to re-integrate into a community, helping a person to navigate distressing social situations. This entails recognition of norms, knowing when to be assertive, rather than aggressive, and draws individuals out of themselves. Although research is ongoing, this supports the idea that the presence of a dog may assist in combating introversion and fearful memories.

Program with pets for veterans
Paws for Purple Hearts is a group dedicated to assigning service dogs to returning veterans. A rigorous training process is stipulated for those dogs assigned to veterans. The organization requires an 18-24 month training process prior to a dog being assigned to a veteran. In this process, 90 new commands are learned.

The relationship between pet-ownership and PTSD raises questions into other anxiety disorders and whether dogs (and even cats!) are more than just a companion and quite possibly a saving grace.

This post is provided by the pet experts at Hartz