In Service Of The Country: Dogs Lessen Stress For Soldiers During Evac

Soldier greeting his cute white dog after long time.

(Picture Credit: Pekic/Getty Images)

Dogs help out in many professions, especially in the military. While there’s overwhelming evidence that military and service dogs provide invaluable assistance to their trainers and handlers, new research shows that they can even help comfort injured soldiers who are being flown out of combat.

Cheryl Krause-Parello, a Florida Atlantic University researcher and the founder and director of Canines Providing Assistance to Wounded Warriors, and her team explored the benefits of having dogs assist in aeromedical services. They found that animal-assisted intervention can reduce stress for wounded soldiers.

“We know that stress can impede healing, which is why it’s so important for practicing clinicians in aeromedical staging facilities and other health care settings to examine ways to reduce patient stress,” says Krause-Parello, the senior author of the study.

The Biology Of Reducing Stress

Focusing on measurable biological benefits, the study found a significant positive effect in just 20 minutes of dog-assisted intervention. Even those suffering from significant post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) experienced significantly less stress.

What makes this intervention even more beneficial is that it’s non-invasive and relatively affordable. The simple treatment works wonders as a military support program.

Krause-Parello and her team tapped a not-for-profit animal organization for the therapy dogs. They did the study with 120 military members of varying age groups from the army, military, navy, and marine corps.

The researchers focused on stress biomarkers such as cortisol, blood pressure, alpha-amylase, and immunoglobulin A to see the effects of stress overall.

Findings showed a decrease in both immunoglobulin A and cortisol, which is associated with less stress. “Study participants told us that they enjoyed interacting with the dogs, and the staff at the aeromedical staging facility also enjoyed visits from the dogs and their handlers,” adds Krause-Parello.

Dogs’ Effect On PTSD

Many researches explore ways for military dogs to help veterans with PTSD. Purdue University’s study found that military veterans with PTSD had fewer symptoms and better coping skills if they had a service dog.

According to Psychology Today, this is one of the pioneer studies that prove the benefit of service dogs to military veterans. Service dogs help regulate negative emotions like anger, alleviate symptoms of anxiety, and promote better sleep for their veteran companions.

Service dogs offer more than companionship. They also have specialized skills that comfort their companions. For instance, service dogs know how to spot anxiety and easily offer comfort. They also train to warn veterans of approaching people to avoid surprises when in a crowd.

Do you know of any service dos who offered great help to veteran companions? Do you think dogs can benefit soldiers returning from combat? Let us know in the comments below!

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