Veterans’ Day 2017 – PTSD Service Dogs Transform Lives

Each year on Veterans’ Day, Three Dog Bakery donates 15% of the sales of all TDB branded treats from every outlet to Friends in Service of Heroes (FISH). Established in 2013, FISH is a non profit organization dedicated to helping veterans. To date they have provided 13 veterans with service dogs. The donation made by Three Dog Bakery on Veterans’ Day goes towards supplying a veteran chosen by FISH with a PTSD service dog. In 2014 Three Dog Bakery raised $5,000. They raised $7,500 in 2015 and last year they raised $7,666. Our goal of raising $10,000 this year is ambitious, but it is attainable with a little help from their friends.

It is estimated that seven or eight out of one hundred people, that is seven or eight percent, in the United States will have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. That number increases significantly for those people who have seen military combat, going up to about twenty percent in any given year. It is common knowledge that living with a dog can lower blood pressure, ease depression, reduce stress and raise serotonin. It is believed that PTSD service dogs help relieve the anxiety caused by the trauma a veteran has suffered. Among the many tasks that a PTSD service dog can perform are waking the veteran when he is experiencing night terrors, helping calm him down when agitated, providing a safe space around him, alerting him to the presence of others, reminding him to take his medication, and giving him a sense of protection. A service dog’s affection reminds the veteran that he is not alone and, thus, reduces his feelings of isolation.

In November of 2015 the Kaiser Permanente Northwest Center for Health Research released the results of a study it had conducted on seventy-eight veterans who had PTSD. The study concluded that those veterans who lived with animals had less substance abuse issues, better mental health and more interpersonal relationships. The researchers did indicate that more studies were needed to know if the differences could be attributed to the service dogs or not. There is currently a study by the Veterans’ Administration, which is expected to conclude sometime in 2018 or later, to determine the benefits of PTSD service dogs.

However, in the numerous studies on the benefits of post traumatic stress disorder service dogs that have been and are currently being conducted, researchers are accumulating evidence that bonding with dogs has biological effects. One of the effects is the elevation of the hormone oxytocin, also known as the feel good hormone. The release of oxytocin aids in the ability to interpret facial expressions, overcome paranoia and improve trust.All of these are in direct contrast with the symptoms of PTSD. Thus, it would stand to reason that a PTSD service dog will be beneficial in all aspects of a veteran’s life.

The Veterans’ Administration currently provides service dogs for veterans and even pays for their veterinary bills, but only for those veterans with physical disabilities. The V.A. does not pay for service dogs for veterans whose only disability is PTSD, even though the assistance of these dogs is as invaluable as that provided by service dogs who aid physically disabled veterans. Let’s hope that the results of the Veterans’ Administration study provide them with the conclusive scientific evidence they require in order to supply all veterans with the service dog they need to lead a normal life. 

If you enjoy Christina’s writing, check her books out! She is the author of “Chester Gigolo: Diary of a Dog Star” and “Insider Training: Chester Gigolo’s Dog Training Secrets Revealed” for which she won the 2016 DWAA Captain Haggerty award for Best Training Book and the 11th Annual National Indie Excellence Award (Animals & Pets). She is also a contributing author to “Animal Stars: Behind the Scenes with Your Favorite Animal Actors”. She has written multiple articles which have appeared in various international publications.