Service dogs are changing the lives of veterans with PT

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image: Service dogs are changing the lives of veterans with PTSD for the better
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Credit: iStock-1319461315

Veterans can develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after stressful or traumatic events. Emmy van Houtert, a researcher at the University of Utrecht, studied the influence of service dogs on PTSD symptoms. She also looked at the effect of service work on dogs. Service dogs seem to be changing the lives of people with PTSD for the better. The dogs themselves don’t seem to feel any stress related to their work.

PTSD is the result of one or more very stressful or traumatic events. Common symptoms are nightmares, anxiety and depression. PTSD can affect a person’s life and those close to them very negatively. Veterans, police officers and other uniformed professionals can develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the course of their work.

Veterans feel better and experience fewer symptoms thanks to service dog
Service dogs have been used for years to help veterans with PTSD. Until now, there was no scientific evidence that service dogs can have a positive effect on the mental state of veterans. In Van Houtert’s doctoral research, the effect of the interaction between the service dog and the veteran was studied, with the aim of improving the treatment of PTSD while ensuring the well-being of the service dog. the same time.

The results show that – thanks to their service dog – veterans are able to cope better with their PTSD symptoms. The physiological characteristics of PTSD, such as the stress hormone cortisol, did not change, but the veterans felt significantly better: they had fewer nightmares, slept better and had fewer clinical symptoms.

Effects on Service Dogs
The effects of work on service dogs themselves were also examined. The dogs involved in the study showed no signs of prolonged stress. Further research now needs to show if this applies to all PTSD assistance dogs, and over a longer period of time.

Assistance dogs continue to be used
In summary, service dogs can improve the lives of veterans with PTSD. The veteran’s well-being is improved, and the dog does not seem stressed by the work itself. Further research into the interaction between service dogs and veterans with PTSD is important to improve understanding of the effect animals have on veterans with PTSD and to make this form of therapy more accessible to veterans. fighters.

The search continues
Thanks to the support of the Karel Doorman Fund and an anonymous donor, this line of research will be pursued in the years to come. The “V-PWR 2.0” research project aims to better understand the long-term effects of the interaction between dogs and veterans. After all, PTSD is a condition that affects veterans for the rest of their lives. The relationship between a service dog and a veteran often means a bond for life. How does the veteran react when the service dog “retires” and is replaced by another, younger dog? And what does this mean for the dog? Interviews with veterans and their family members indicate that the service dog can also be important to family members. In V-PWR 2.0, this dimension will also be mapped.


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