PTSD Awareness Month: Making Progress Against a Relentless Enemy

Written by: 
Brianna Bentov

PTSD is real. It’s serious, and it’s relentless.

For our veterans who suffer from it, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder causes nightmares, anxiety, depression, broken relationships, sleepless years, and the worst: suicidal ideation.

But at K9s For Warriors, we fight back every day. For years we’ve said that Service Dogs work. That they help heal our warriors from PTSD, help them reintegrate into society, and ultimately save their lives.  We have 544 graduate teams (and counting) to support those claims. 

We also have expanding, scientific data to prove that our Service Dogs work!

Since 2015, Purdue University’s College of Veterinary Medicine has been researching our Service Dogs and warriors. The research is conducted by the OHAIRE Lab, Observation of Human-Animal Interaction for Research, headed by Dr. Maggie O’Haire. Click on the image for a 45-second video that summarizes Dr. O'Haire's research.

 

 

Over the years, the OHAIRE Lab has published many positive findings on the relationship between our veterans with PTSD and the Service Dogs trained to help them. One study, published in the Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association, showed these positive effects of our Service Dogs helping veterans manage PTSD symptoms:

  • Lower overall symptoms of PTSD
  • Lower levels of depression
  • Higher levels of life satisfaction
  • Higher overall psychological well-being 
  • Lower levels of social isolation and greater ability to participate in social activities
  • Less absenteeism from work due to health among those who were employed

 

 

Have you ever heard of cortisol? It’s commonly referred to as the “stress” hormone. When it’s unregulated due to stress in the body, it’s dangerous to a host of vital functions – which is exactly the case in veterans with PTSD. Purdue’s research found that our Service Dogs help veterans achieve a level of cortisol similar to healthy adults with no PTSD.  That means that those nightmares, panic attacks, torn relationships and suicidal ideation mentioned above all subside - or even disappear - and the veterans can function normally in their everyday lives.

The latest study, published in February of this year, concluded something simple, yet profound: the bond between a veteran and his or her Service Dog is far stronger than the bond between a pet dog and owner.

 

 

Why do we need science to prove what our warriors tell us time and time again? Because unfortunately, testimony alone doesn’t validate Service Dogs within the healthcare field. Peer-reviewed, scientific data is required to prove Service Animals indeed are an effective treatment tool. Through this research, that science now exists. K9s For Warriors’ ultimate hope is the VA will no longer justify opposition to Service Dogs, but rather integrate them as a standard PTSD treatment option for all veterans.

Now that you’re up to speed on the latest science of how we’re fighting PTSD, we’ll end with our favorite way to show it: a real testimony of a life saved!

Jeremiah & Vinny

“A lot of people suffering from PTSD are quiet. They bury their trauma down until it builds up.  
I was looking for a service dog because I started to realize staying in my house would be the death of me.

Vinny gets me out in public so much. Him being attached to me has given me that missing structure.

K9s has opened the door to my life again by giving me Vinny. It is now up to me to continue stepping forward.”

 

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