Monday, October 3, 2022

How Dogs Help With Ptsd

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The Ohaire Lab’s Research With Military Veterans & Service Dogs

Therapy dogs help veterans cope with PTSD

The goal of our research at the OHAIRE lab is to empirically evaluate the effects of service dogs on the mental health and wellness of military members diagnosed with PTSD and their families. In particular, we are interested in determining if military members with PTSD who have been placed with a service dog will show changes in PTSD symptom severity, physiological activation, and social connectedness compared to those receiving usual treatment services while on the waitlist to receive a PTSD service dog.

We are also interested in the spouse’s perspective from the service dog placement. Do spouses of military veterans experience any effects from the service dog being inside the home? To answer this question, we are also measuring spousal stress, caregiver burden, relationship satisfaction, and overall family functioning from the spouse’s point of view. Future research will plan to incorporate children and other family members.

Our research is conducted in collaboration with K9s for Warriors, an Assistance Dogs International accredited organization providing service dogs for veterans with PTSD, traumatic brain injury , military sexual trauma , and mobility issues.

Road To Recovery: How A Dog Or Pet Improves Its Owners Life

Pets, and specifically dogs offer numerous forms of support to PTSD sufferers, depending on the specific needs of the individual. For example, assault survivors may be reluctant to go out in public without the aid of a companion dog who can instil in them confidence and a feeling of security.

Experts say that dogs have been successful in aiding the recovery of sexual assault victims, being uniquely suited to help them overcome trust and relationship issues. Furthermore, it is suggested that dogs are a great way for an individual to practise controlling stress levels and regulating their tone of voice.

Research offers strong support for the general value of pets and data shows that PTSD patients with a dog dont just sleep more, but have higher levels of oxytocin and dopamine with reduced cortisol, the stress hormone.

How else do assistance dogs and pets help sufferers of post traumatic stress order?

  • Improved self-sufficiency, as service dogs can be trained to assist in daily tasks
  • Reduction in stress and anxiety in the individual, allowing them to practise their response to stressful or triggering situations
  • Provides a grounding for the patient through the dogs consistent and positive presence
  • Playing with a dog or cat can elevate serotonin and dopamine levels, which calm and relax you.

What Are Ptsd Service Dogs Trained To Do

PTSD service dogs have a wide variety of abilities that can benefit people who deal with post-traumatic stress disorder on a daily basis. Their PTSD service dogs can be trained to perform any number of PTSD-mitigating tasks, including:

Assistance in a medical crisis

Retrieve medication and beverages

Fetch a phone in an emergency

Answer doorbell

Remind partners to take medication on time

Help in coping with medication side effects

Alert to an emergency such as a smoke alarm

Wake up partners from flashbacks and nightmares by licking, nudging, or pawing

Support in dealing with emotional overload

Provide tactile stimulation to disrupt overload

Wake up for work or school

Prevent panic in the public

Security enhancement tasks

Support in coping with the fear of an intruder

Lighting up a dark room

Read Also: What Does An Anxiety Attack Feel Like Physically

Why Do Veterans Need Ptsd Service Dogs

Military veterans and service members returning from active duty often find it challenging to adjust to civilian life, especially when going through the trials of PTSD. As stated above, the symptoms of PTSD can be debilitating and include:

  • Flashbacks

But as a result of this, veterans dont end up getting the mental health care that they need. Unfortunately, the rates of suicide in veterans is much higher than the general population and it has become a leading cause of death for military veterans in America.

Getting treatment for PTSD, substance use, and other related mental health conditions can save the life of a veteran in need. This is where veteran-focused treatment and service dog assistance can be incredibly helpful. Having a PTSD service dog means that you will have a comforting, trained resource right by your side to help you fight the symptoms of PTSD.

I Understand There Are Some New Developments On How Dogs Are Helping With Ptsd Can You Explain What These Are

Service Dogs and PTSD

Although dog lovers have intuitively known that their dogs are good for them, we now know that the presence of a dog can alleviate, and sometimes help to heal, some of the symptoms related to psychological trauma. For example, we know that just petting a dog increases level of the neurohormone oxytocin, which dampens down the activity of sympathetic nervous system. That is the system that puts you on alert, which is often hyperactive in people with PTSD.

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Ways Dogs Help Veterans With Ptsd

A pet can make anyone happy, but pet ownership can be especially helpful for veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder . Many veterans returning home from overseas have experienced horrible situations that later cause PTSD.

Many different types of therapy can help treat the flashbacks, anxiety, depression, numbness, nightmares and other symptoms that characterize PTSD. While traditional therapy can be extremely beneficial, some veterans have difficulty accessing it in the VA system, or difficulty admitting the need for therapy.

It’s important to seek out professional help for PTSD, but veterans may also want to consider getting a pet. Psychology researchers have started to recognize the therapeutic benefits of owning a dog. No matter if it’s a Pomeranian or a Pit Bull, adopting a dog can be surprisingly helpful for veterans with PTSD. Here are five ways dogs can help turn your life around:

  • Get active. Dogs help you get out of the house, get active and meet new people. Depression and anxiety can make veterans want to stay cooped up inside, but that only lets these conditions worsen. Dogs need a lot of exercise, which is the perfect reason for owners to get out of the house. The act of simply leaving the house can boost your mood, but getting exercise in the process is also a great way to fight depression.

  • Waking Up To A Better Future

    People who suffer from PTSD dread reliving their experiences through nightmares. Because of this they fear going to sleep and literally a fear of their bedroom causing a downward spiral. Consequently this results in a lack of sleep that can create ever-deepening depression.

    We have already seen dramatic results. Most significantly, we find when someone suffering from PTSD knows they can rely on a four-legged best friend to consistently stop the nightmares, the frequency and intensity of the nightmares steadily decline. This leads to better sleepand thus reduced depression and anxiety. We do not know if nightmares will permanently cease , but we have already seen beneficial results.

    Read Also: Can Ptsd Be Passed Down

    What Is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

    PTSD, or post traumatic stress disorder, is a well-documented condition in humans who have experienced traumatic situations. It can result in sleep disturbances, generalized anxiety, hypervigilance, depression, and irritability. More recently, this disorder was also recognized in dogs. Canine post traumatic stress disorder, or C-PTSD, was first recognized by the military in dogs returning home from war. It is similar enough to human PTSD in behavior and responses to treatment that testing executed to help treat canine PTSD can often be converted into treatments for people as well.

    Dogs who experience traumatic events can develop the condition known as post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. This can be treated using behavior modification, sometimes combined with anti-anxiety medications.

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    Us Service Animals Ptsd Service Dog Tasks

    Service dogs like Pepper help veterans with PTSD

    Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a severe anxiety disorder caused by a traumatic event or series of events. PTSD can be debilitating to live with, and can greatly affect the quality of daily life for someone who suffers from the condition. PTSD can be caused by a number of traumas including Military Combat, terrorist attacks, witnessing an accident or fatality, child abuse, physical or sexual assault, or a natural disaster such as a flood, fire, tornado, hurricane or earthquake.

    Many who witness or experience these frightening events deal with terrible anxiety after its over. It may take a few weeks or months to feel less on edge, get a good nights sleep and feel safe to go about a normal daily routine. However, for some, these symptoms do not go away, and instead develop into Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

    Post Traumatic Stress Disorder manifests itself in many ways. A person with this condition may experience severe anxiety, terrifying panic attacks triggered by reminders of the trauma, insomnia, fear of crowds, flashbacks, mood swings and depression.

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    Video Answer: Using Service Dogs To Help War Veterans With Ptsd

    Exercise and play are also extremely important. If dogs with PTSD are given the opportunity to run and chase other dogs, play with their people, retrieve, swim, do nose work or run an agility course, they recover much more quickly. If the dog can relearn how to have fun, treatment is much more successful.

    For example, PTSD service dogs can be trained to detect a veteran’s physical signs of anxiety and distress, serving to alert to and interrupt anxiety and panic attacks during the day as well as interrupt nightmares during the night.

    Retrieve Medication And Other Alert Tasks

    Service dogs are trained to remind handlers when it is time to take their medication and retrieve medications for them.

    Some other alert tasks that service dogs perform are alerting a handler to an alarm, alert that someone is at the door, and remind them of routine tasks such as eating and sleeping.

    A service dog is a nonjudgmental companion for someone with PTSD. Not only can these extraordinary dogs help mitigate the symptoms associated with PTSD, but they can also make it possible for sufferers to live more independently, be more self-sufficient, and improve their quality of life.

    This post covers just a few ways a service dog can help people with PTSD. But there are many more tasks service dogs can perform which depend on each handler and their unique situation.

    Are you, or someone you know, a veteran or first-responder who suffers from PTSD? Interested in applying for a service dog? Please visit New Life K9s application page here.

    Help save lives and donate to our cause!

    New Life K9s places service dogs with veterans and first responders with PTSD at no cost to the veterans and first responders.

    References

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    What Can Service Dogs Do For Ptsd

    Specially trained PTSD service dogs are one emerging complementary treatment option for PTSD that may address the needs of the family unit and encourage treatment retention. PTSD service dogs are specifically trained to instill a sense of confidence, safety, and independence on a day-to-day basis for the veteran. For example, a PTSD service dog may be trained to assist the veteran by “watching” their back in public, serving as a physical barrier between the veteran and approaching strangers, waking them up from nightmares, and serving as a physical brace for balance. However, not all dogs are trained to use the same cues, and specific cues may vary on an individual basis. Service dogs for PTSD are mostly Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, or German Shepherds but can be a variety of different breeds, including mixed breeds and rescue animals from shelters.

    Ways Service Dogs Help People With Ptsd

    Service Dog Helps Wounded Veteran Cope With PTSD

    The US Department of Veteran Affairs says Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault. PTSD is characterized by symptoms grouped into four main categories: intrusion or re-experiencing, avoidance, alteration in mood and cognition, and hyperarousal.

    Using Psychiatric service dogs is one way to help people suffering from PTSD. Psychiatric service animals are dogs specifically trained to help people with mental health disabilities like schizophrenia, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. A PTSD service dog is a type of psychiatric service dog trained to do work and complete tasks to help mitigate the symptoms of PTSD.

    In this post, we will identify six ways that a service animal can help people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and the tasks they perform to do so.

    Read Also: How Does Therapy Help In The Treatment Of Depression

    Are People Beginning To Use Dogs To Treat Those Suffering From Ptsd Outside The Military

    Yes, although the practice gets less press and attention. But PTSD is not confined to those in the military one study estimates that 25% of car crash victims develop PTSD. There are many ways an individual can become psychologically traumatized, the most common being rape, violent attacks or suffering through an extreme event like an earthquake or tsunami.

    What Are The Emotional Benefits Of Having A Dog

    Dogs can make great pets. Having a dog as a pet can benefit anyone who likes dogs, including people with PTSD. For example, dogs:

    • Help bring out feelings of love.
    • Are good companions.
    • Take orders well when trained. This can be very comfortable for a Service member or Veteran who was used to giving orders in the military.
    • Are fun and can help reduce stress.
    • Are a good reason to get out of the house, spend time outdoors, and meet new people.

    Recommended Reading: How To Help Depression Without Medication

    Use Natural Calming Remedies

    Its possible to calm down a nervous or anxious dog with safe and natural remedies. CBD oil, homeopathic remedies, Bach Flower Essences and essential oils are some of the options. There are even body calming therapies that might help, like a Thundershirt, T-Touch Wrap or weighted blanket. These will remove stress without having to give your dog drugs. Hands-on work like massage can also be soothing for some dogs.

    RELATED: Make a hands-on connection with your dog through bodywork

    How Can I Make My Dog A Service Dog

    How Rescue Dogs Are Helping Veterans With PTSD | National Geographic

    We have identified 5 simple steps to help you understand how your dog can become a service dog.

  • Identify and Understanding What Type of Dog You Have.
  • Find a Trainer You Trust or Train Your Dog Yourself!
  • Train Your Service Dog.
  • Pass a Public Access Test.
  • Consider Service Dog Certification and Registration.
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    Service Animals And Ptsd: How Service Dogs Can Help

    Disturbing and shocking experiences, such as combat duty, a serious accident, abuse or violence, or any number of life events can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder. The condition afflicts approximately eight million American adults each year, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, but men and women of all ages and from all walks of life can be affected.

    Symptoms of PTSD include recurring nightmares, intrusive thoughts, debilitating flashbacks and hypervigilance, which is a state of oversensitivity that can lead to self-destructive behavior under certain circumstances. In many cases, a trigger occurs that reminds an individual of the traumatic event or its effects. This acts as the unexpected spark that can cause one or more of the PTSD symptoms to flare up. PTDS can be a debilitating condition but also one where the afflicted can suffer alone, without help. This is where the benefits of service dogs and therapy animals come into play.

    What Is The Dogs Role In This Type Of Service

    Psychiatric Service Dogs can help people with PTSD by, for example, increasing ones sense of safety and security: Dogs can be trained to enter a dark room first and turn on the lights. Fear of entering a dark place is a common problem in people who have been traumatized, and the fear can be so significant that it stops victims from ever leaving the house. Other examples of how dogs help include what is called Reality affirmation to help victims manage nightmares and flashbacks, or to intervene in potentially overwhelming situations, by putting a paw on a lap, or poking the owner with his or her nose to interrupt what might be destructive behavior and bring the owner back to earth.

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    Teaching Your Dog Good Manners

  • 1Use clicker training. Clicker training is a great tool to teach your dog all of the skills it needs. To get started, sit across from your dog and wait until it meets your eyes. Then click your clicker and give it a treat. Click and offer a treat a few more times until your dog begins to look for the treat when it hears a click.XTrustworthy SourceBest Friends Animal SocietyNonprofit animal welfare organization dedicated to saving animal lives by operating and supporting no-kill animal sheltersGo to source
  • Test your dog by asking it to do something simple it already knows how to do, such take its favorite toy from you. Then click and give it a treat. If it succeeds, you’re ready to use your clicker for training tasks.
  • 2Teach obedience skills. Your dog must learn basic obedience commands, which include sit, stay, come, down, and heel. It should also know a command to return a dropped leash, such as “leash.” Not only will this make your dog easier to train, but its also required for your dog to be used in public as a service dog.XResearch source
  • To teach each skill, hold a treat over the dogs nose, then give the command. When it correctly performs the command, click and give the dog the treat. You should also praise the dog.
  • Its best to teach your dog both verbal and hand commands to make it easy to signal it in public.
  • As an alternative, you can send your dog to obedience school.
  • The dog should not bark, bite, nip, lunge, or growl at people or other animals.
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