Dogs Help Veterans With PTSD Heal And Live Their Lives, And You Can Help, Too!

Michael Kidd, and his service dog Millie wait for their training at the Paws of War office in Nesconset, Long Island, New York on June 10, 2019. - The service dogs are either trained or being trained to help veterans through difficult times by Paws of War, an association funded entirely by private donations that provides the shelter animals free of charge.

(Picture Credit: JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images)

It’s no surprise that dogs can soothe us when we feel troubled. But research shows bonding with dogs has positive benefits even on a biological level.

Dogs elevate levels of the hormone oxytocin in our bodies, which promotes feelings of trust and well being. Oxytocin also heightens our ability to interpret facial expressions, helps us overcome paranoia, and has positive effects on our social interactions.

These benefits are, in many ways, directly opposite of many of the symptoms returning military veterans experience when they suffer from PTSD. “A pet is a medication without side effects that has so many benefits,” says Mayo Clinic oncologist Dr. Edward Creagan.

Veterans With PTSD Suffer Terrible Symptoms

Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, commonly known as PTSD, can appear right away or take years to surface.

Returning soldiers often experience it because they faced danger to their lives or the lives of their fellow soldiers, and they had no control over the situation. They witnessed injuries or death, or they themselves also suffered physical harm.

The shell shock and combat stress symptoms common among those suffering from PTSD are varied; however, many experience suicidal thoughts, recurring memories and nightmares, sleeplessness, a loss of interest in life or feeling numb, anger, irritation, and fear. PTSD can thus impact their everyday life.

PTSD Service Dogs Can Help

A trained PTSD service dog can provide a sense of security and have a calming effect on veterans, help with episodes of depression, anxiety, and PTSD, and they can also be loving companions.

These dogs can sense mood and will know when it’s a difficult day. Additionally, organizations train them to respond to PTSD episodes and help bring their humans back to a relaxed state.

Furthermore, they give companionship without judgment, bringing joy into lives as they help heal emotional wounds.

The Dogs Benefit, Too

As a wonderful bonus, it’s often a new lease on life for the dogs, as well.

Many service dogs trained to help those suffering from PTSD have been on a difficult journey of their own and are rescues who were mistreated or abandoned, living in shelters.

Organizations train these dogs to alert veterans to potential PTSD triggers and to help them ease their anxieties. It’s a win-win situation when a dog is rescued and gains a secure home and purpose, and the veteran gets a companion to help diminish the emotionally destructive feeling of isolation.

Help The Veterans In Your Life

If you are a veteran or know one who could benefit from a trained service dog, there are dozens of organizations who can help.

DogTime interviewed K9s For Warriors, an organization that trains service dogs and provides them to veterans free of charge.

Here are a few other organizations that can help veterans find companion animals and service dogs:

As we approach Veterans Day and honor those who’ve valiantly served and sacrificed for our country, it’s also a good time to spread the word about the many organizations and non-profits that it possible for veterans with PTSD to be matched with canine companions.

There are many fabulous organizations in cities and towns throughout the country dedicated to helping returning military rebuild their lives with help from an assistance dog.

Additionally, more information and PTSD resources are available through the US Department of Veterans Affairs website.

You can also help by reaching out to these organizations, donating and volunteering. They need lots of help, and most have a variety of volunteer positions available. It’s a beautiful way to show your gratitude to those who’ve served.

Do you think dogs can help veterans with PTSD return to civilian life? Let us know in the comments below!