The beneficial effects of pets on people has been examined a lot of late, but never quite like this. Many soldiers returning from combat suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. And a new study by the Department of Defense is looking into whether these soldiers will benefit from being paired with specially trained service dogs.
According to an article in the Kansas City Star, the Department of Defense is footing the bill for a study that will match soldiers with PTSD as a result of combat in Afghanistan and Iraq with dogs that are able to sense when a person is about to suffer a panic attack. If an attack is imminent, the dog will help the person calm down by nuzzling them.
The 12-month study will be conducted by Craig Love, a research psychologist, and Joan Esnayra, who founded the Psychiatric Service Dog Society. Researchers will pair 10 soldiers who will receive conventional treatment for PTSD with service dogs. Every three months, these soldiers will undergo psychological tests and stress hormone measurements. The findings will then be compared with a group of soldiers who received only the conventional treatment. If the outcome of this study is positive, additional research may follow.
The potential results seem promising since in a preliminary survey of people with PTSD already paired with psychiatric service dogs, 82 percent said they had fewer symptoms since getting the dogs and 40 percent needed less medication. The healing power of pets indeed!