Dogs and PTSD

June is PTSD Awareness month. In this article we are going to highlight PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder) and how our canine friends play an important role in the lives of individuals who live with this disorder every day.

Cheryl Douglas · June 04, 2019

Dogs and PTSD

June is PTSD Awareness month.  In this article we are going to highlight PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder) and how our canine friends play an important role in the lives of individuals who live with this disorder every day.  

PTSD was not something we heard about too often in years past.  The term "posttraumatic stress disorder" came into use in the 1970s mainly due to the diagnoses of U.S. military veterans of the Vietnam War. The American Psychiatric Association officially recognized it in 1980.  Since then, according to the Sidran Institute, general PTSD statistics are as follows:

  • 70% of adults in the U.S. have experienced some type of traumatic event at least once in their lives - that is approximately 223 million people.
  • Up to 20% of these people go on to develop PTSD. As of today, 31.3 million people have struggled or are currently struggling with PTSD.
  • An estimated 8% of Americans – that’s 24.4 million people – have PTSD at any given time.
  • An estimated 1 out of 10 women develops PTSD; women are about twice as likely as men to develop PTSD.
  • Among people who are victims of a severe traumatic experience 60 – 80% will develop PTSD.
  • Almost 50% of all outpatient mental health patients have PTSD.
  • Somewhat higher rates of this disorder have been found to occur in African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans compared to Caucasians in the United States.

While these statistics are staggering, studies have shown that our fury friends have helped alleviate stress and anxiety as well as offering physiological and emotional support to those struggling with PTSD.   According to Psychology Today, the following are some reasons why dogs are helping with PTSD:

  1. Dogs are vigilant.  
  2. Dogs are protective
  3. Dogs respond well to authoritative relationships
  4. Dogs love unconditionally
  5. Dogs help to relearn trust.   Trust is a big issue in PTSD.  It can be very difficult to feel safe in the world after certain experiences, and being able to trust the immediate environment can take some time.  Dogs help heal by being trustworthy. 
  6. Dogs help to remember feelings of love

While there are currently several active researches and studies being done in regards to treatment and tools to help with the rapidly growing number of those struggling with PTSD, one of these studies is being led by the Purdue College of Veterinary Medicine.  During a preliminary study that took place in 2015-16 showed that overall symptoms of PTSD were lower among war veterans with service dogs. The pilot study was co-funded by the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) and Bayer Animal Health. The study examined 141 veterans—with 76 of them having a service dog and 66 being on a waiting list for a dog.

As pet owners, (with or without PTSD) we can attest that our fur babies can lift your mood or help us feel less stressed. They help us feel better just by providing companionship and unconditional love, and make us feel whole during times we may feel broken.  As quoted by Roger Cara,  "Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole."

Reference articles may be found at:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/survivors/201107/why-dogs-heal-ptsd

 https://medicalxpress.com/news/2018-11-dogs-veterans-ptsd.html

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Cheryl Douglas

Cheryl Douglas

Cheryl Douglas is one of BARF® World’s Raw Food Specialist. In addition, she offers Administrative support to the BARF® World office, as well as specializing in logistics. She has a strong background in customer service and public relations. She is passionate about pets; specifically rescue dogs. She is a Minnesota native; born and raised, and enjoys spending time with her family and friends.

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