Study Critical of Use of Dogs to Help Veterans With PTSD

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For years dogs have served as companion animals to thousands of people coping with depression, anxiety, and other disorders. A number of organizations offer dogs to veterans suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and the VA provides certain resources for guide dogs. Questions of the efficacy of using dogs for the treatment of PTSD, however, have come into question. An ongoing study is being conducted by the VA currently in an attempt to better understand if and how dogs can help the healing process PTSD requires.

Questions About Effectiveness of Treating PTSD

Before the three-year-old golden retriever Munger came into his life, army veteran Joe Aguirre couldn’t imagine undertaking even a simple outing to a restaurant. With the dog by his side, however, he finds a small measure of confidence to take on the world.
While it is progress of a sort, the VA study is concerned that the comfort and security dogs like Munger provide may actually be hindering true healing from PTSD. Critics of using dogs say the VA’s training protocol actually reinforce PTSD’s cognitive disorders, including paranoia and pathological thinking. Other critics question whether the dogs are just serving as substitutes for the hard work of ongoing therapy and other even question if the VA isn’t just trying to get out of veterinary bills.
Defenders within the VA, however, including the their chief veterinary medical officer, adamantly refute the study has anything to do with money and the training commands were developed over an extensive period of time with the aid of mental-health experts, service dog providers, and veterans.

Problems Plaguing Study

Since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, more than 350,000 veterans have come to the VA, seeking help with PTSD. The VA is only allowed to offer “evidence-based” therapies, which means no dogs. In 2010, the VA was given permission to study alternative therapies, including animal-based therapies.
The study began with three dog vendors, but soon ran into trouble with two vendors being cut and allegations ranging from biting incidents of participants’ children and lax veterinary care. Yet the VA study continues, revamped and scheduled to conclude in 2018, with roughly half of currently enrolled veterans already placed with dogs. Another study conducted by Kaiser Permanente Northwest Center for Health Research that included 78 veterans with PTSD found those with animals showed better overall health, higher satisfaction in interpersonal relationships, and lower rates of substance abuse.
Regardless of what the politicians and researchers decide, for veterans like Joe Aguirre there’s no questions about effectiveness of such animal therapies. He firmly believes without his dog Munger, he wouldn’t be alive any more.

Help for Veterans Seeking Disability

The path to recover for disabled veterans and servicemembers, especially those suffering from PTSD is long and difficult. If you are in need of assistance acquiring disability benefits, contact J. Robert Surface Attorney at Law. With years of experience as a veterans’ disability attorney in Greenville, he will work tirelessly to advocate for you and help you recover the disability benefits you are entitled to.