Purdue research shows service dogs help reduce PTSD symptoms

The VA does not currently support service dogs as a treatment for PTSD. Researchers say the reason Veterans Affairs doesn't recognize service dogs as a form of treatment is that there isn't enough research surrounding how they can help.

Posted: Nov 29, 2019 6:59 PM

WEST  LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI)-New research at Purdue University has indicated that veterans may benefit physiologically from having a service dog.

One local veteran says their service dog has changed their life.

"She gets me through," said James Ruth an army veteran who suffers from PTSD and Anxiety. He says his service dog has helped control his symptoms.

"She takes care of the PTSD and anxiety when I am out in public I really don't like crowds at all. It's really difficult for me to trust people," added Ruth

Ruth isn't the only veteran who says his service dog helps with his PTSD symptoms. New research at Purdue is scientifically proving the benefits of veterans having one.

"Our first study did find that having a service dog was related to not only less PTSD but less depression, less anxiety, and better quality of life,” said Kerri Rodriguez a graduate researcher at Purdue University. “Studies also show they are more satisfied with their lives and they slept better."

There is one major reason that this research is being done specifically for veterans.

"The VA does not currently support service dogs as a treatment for PTSD,” added Rodriquez.

Researchers say the reason Veterans Affairs doesn't recognize service dogs as a form of treatment is that there isn't enough research surrounding how they can help.

"There really is a lack of empirical research on not only how these service dogs are helping PTSD symptoms but why they are working who they are working for and really figuring out how these service dogs are fitting into other PTSD treatments," said Rodriguez.

Researchers measure veteran’s day time and sleep activity through a wrist monitoring device. On top of that, they also measure the amount of cortisol, a stress hormone, in the veteran’s saliva. Researchers hope hard data can help prove how service dogs are saving veteran lives.

"One of the things we are trying to do is to put numbers behind those amazing stories to really give veterans a voice through science,” added Rodriquez.

She has also led research on how service dogs can have measurable positive effects on the wellbeing of individuals with physical disabilities. She is working on a new study examining how service dogs impact children with autism.

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