Study Shows Service Dogs are Associated with Lower PTSD Symptoms Among War Veterans | HABRI

Study Shows Service Dogs are Associated with Lower PTSD Symptoms Among War Veterans

West Lafayette, IN (February 8, 2018) — A preliminary study led by researchers in the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine has shown that overall symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder are 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 was led by Maggie O’Haire, assistant professor of human-animal interaction, with the help of K9s For Warriors, an accredited non-profit organization that provides veterans with service dogs. The pilot research project provides scientific evidence of mental health benefits experienced by veterans with PTSD who have service dogs.

“We found that the group of veterans with service dogs had significantly lower levels of PTSD symptomology than those who did not have a service dog,” O’Haire says. “They also had lower levels of depression, lower anxiety and increased social participation, meaning a willingness to leave their house and go engage with society in different activities.” The study is published in the February issue of the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.

Participants were recruited between November 2015 and February 2016 from a national sample of 304 individuals who applied and were approved to receive a trained PTSD service dog from K9s For Warriors. Of these, 141 individuals chose to participate in the preliminary trial. Approximately half of the sample of participants were on the waitlist to receive a service dog and the other half already had a service dog.

Measurements of various aspects of PTSD symptoms, quality of life, social functioning and work were analyzed and compared between the two groups. Results reveal that veterans suffering from PTSD exhibited better mental health and well-being on several measures if they had a service dog, including:

  • Lower overall symptoms of post-traumatic stress
  • Lower levels of depression
  • Higher levels of life satisfaction
  • Higher overall psychological well-being
  • Lower levels of social isolation and greater ability to participate in social activities
  • Higher levels of resilience
  • Higher levels of companionship
  • Less absenteeism from work due to health among those who were employed

The only areas measured in which there was no significant difference between the two groups were physical functioning and employment status.

“This innovative study applied rigorous research methodology to an area that has historically been characterized by a reliance on anecdotal accounts and intuition rather than evidence-based science,” O’Haire says.
Kerri Rodriguez, human-animal interaction graduate student in the College of Veterinary Medicine, was co-author of the study.

“The results have important implications for understanding the specific areas of life that a PTSD service dog may help improve” says Rodriguez. “As the number of service dogs given to veterans with PTSD continues to increase, this is an important first step towards proof of concept that service dogs can actually provide measurable, clinical changes for veterans.” O’Haire and Rodriguez also say that service dogs did not replace evidence-based treatment for PTSD, nor did they cure it. While the veterans still had PTSD, they had significantly lower levels of symptoms.

“Pairing service dogs with our nation’s veterans should be recognized as a significant complementary method of treatment,” says HABRI Executive Director Steven Feldman. “The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has cited a lack of scientific research supporting service dogs for veterans with PTSD. This study is a significant step in providing scientific documentation, and I hope the promising results from this study will prompt a renewed focus on the benefits that service dogs provide.”

Bayer Animal Health Vice President for Companion Animal Product Marketing David Van Brunt says the lifetime bonds that these service dogs form with their veterans are built on mutual love, care and devotion. “The results of this study demonstrate not only the impact of this unbreakable bond, but that these service dogs are so much more than service dogs; they are able to bring the joy of living back into veterans’ lives. Bayer is committed to ensuring that these service dogs receive the proper and routine care they need to support their veteran on a daily basis,” Van Brunt says.

The research team will now move on to a National Institutes of Health-funded research project in which veterans with and without service dogs will be studied for an extended period of time. O’Haire says the valuable data from the pilot study helped secure the NIH R21 grant to conduct the large-scale, clinical trial to further investigate the efficacy and role of service dogs for military veterans with PTSD and their spouses.

Abstract

Psychiatric service dogs are an emerging complementary treatment for military members and veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Yet despite anecdotal accounts of their value, there is a lack of empirical research on their efficacy. The current proof-of-concept study assessed the effects of this practice.

Method

A non-randomized efficacy trial was conducted with 141 post-9/11 military members and veterans with PTSD to compare usual care alone (n = 66) versus usual care plus a trained service dog (n = 75). The primary outcome was longitudinal change on the PTSD Checklist, including data points from a cross-sectional assessment and a longitudinal record review. Secondary outcomes included cross-sectional differences in depression, quality of life, and social and work functioning.

Results

Mixed model analyses revealed clinically significant reductions in PTSD symptoms from baseline following the receipt of a service dog, but not while receiving usual care alone. Though clinically meaningful, average reductions were not below the diagnostic cutoff on the PTSD Checklist. Regression analyses revealed significant differences with medium to large effect sizes among those with service dogs compared to those on the waitlist, including lower depression, higher quality of life, and higher social functioning. There were no differences in employment status but there was lower absenteeism due to health among those who were employed.

Conclusions

The addition of trained service dogs to usual care may confer clinically meaningful improvements in PTSD symptomology for military members and veterans with PTSD, though does not appear to be associated with a loss of diagnosis.

Writer

Megan Huckaby

Sources

Dr. Maggie O’Haire
765.494.7991
mohaire@purdue.edu

Contact

Jamie Baxter

jamie@theimpetusagency.com

775.322.4022

###

Press Releases
Pet Partners Commits $100K to Support Therapy Animal Research

The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) announced today that Pet Partners, the nation’s leading organization in animal assisted interventions, will donate $100,000 to fund research on the health, education, and wellness outcomes of therapy animals, for both the people and animals involved. This announcement is a supplement to HABRI’s 2019 Request for Proposals, open now through February 7, 2019. “Pet Partners recognizes the importance of developing scientific findings that further demonstrate the benefits to health and well-being associated with the human-animal bond,” said Annie Peters, President and CEO of Pet Partners. “Together, Pet Partners and HABRI will expand our knowledge, allowing more people to experience the benefits of high-quality therapy animal programs.” In order to be eligible for this funding, investigators must incorporate registered Pet Partners volunteer therapy animal teams into their proposed research. As part of the organization’s registration process, all Pet Partners therapy animal teams must meet high standards in the areas of patient and public safety and outstanding animal welfare. “Pet Partners programs are the gold standard for animal-assisted interventions, which will lend themselves to greater consistency and accuracy for research purposes,” said Steven Feldman, HABRI Executive Director. “We are grateful to Pet Partners for their leadership, generosity, and commitment to high standards.” In addition to funding provided by Pet Partners, researchers can apply for other HABRI grants to investigate the health and wellness outcomes of pet ownership and animal-assisted activity. Proposals should have a strong theoretical framework and take an innovative approach to assess the effect of companion animals on humans within the categories of child health and development, healthy aging and mental and physical wellness. For more information on HABRI funding opportunities and the award application process, please visit...

Press Releases
When Doctors Ask About Pets, Good Things Happen

The Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) today announced it has awarded a $55,000 grant to Markham Stouffville Hospital for a groundbreaking research study, Using the Pet Query to Assess Patients’ Environmental History and Social Context, to explore how questions about pet ownership can help healthcare professionals better serve their patients. “If primary care practitioners – physicians, nurse practitioners, and social workers – just ask patients about pets in their families, a whole new world of patient care is open to them,” said Dr. Kate Hodgson, co-investigator of the study, veterinarian and Certified Continuing Medical Education Professional. “Pets can build social capital, motivate healthy behavior change, catalyze harm reduction, and even participate in a patient’s treatment plan.” It is expected that by utilizing the Pet Query, (Do you live with companion animals? How many? What species?) patients will be more open about their environmental history and habits, allowing healthcare providers to better assess and address their patients’ health. Pets can then become powerful catalysts and motivators for patients’ healthy choices and behaviors. In addition to enabling primary care providers to leverage the health benefits of companion animals, asking about pets in the family assists in identifying and mitigating any associated risk. “This grant to Markham Stouffville Hospital is an important stepping-stone in HABRI’s mission of investigating and sharing the healing power of companion animals,” said Steve Feldman, Executive Director of HABRI. “We know 97% of doctors already believe in the health benefits of pets. This research will give them practical tools to act on this belief.” The 12-month study will survey 150-200 healthcare professionals ranging from family physicians to social workers on how specific behaviors relate to pet ownership and how to integrate that information into healthcare practices.

Press Releases
DC Stands for Dogs and Cats!

Members of Congress have been bringing pets to work since the nation’s founding. A new survey confirms that Capitol Hill remains a very pet-friendly workplace today, with a solid majority of House and Senate offices who responded to the survey saying they welcome pets at work on the Hill. The survey included in-person interviews in House and Senate offices during August, 2017, and was sponsored by Nestlé Purina PetCare and conducted on behalf of the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI), to call attention to the benefits of pet-friendly workplaces. The Hill survey findings paint a picture of a very pet-friendly workplace: More than 80 percent of the 192 House and Senate offices who responded say they welcome pets in the office, either during recess, while Congress is in session, or both. By comparison, according to the Society for Human Resource Management, just 7% of American workplaces allow pets. The pet-friendly Hill office findings were relatively consistent across party lines, geographic regions, and both chambers, suggesting wide bipartisan support for having pets at work. “The bond we share with pets is something we can all agree on,” said Dr. Kurt Venator, DVM, PhD, and Chief Veterinary Officer at Purina. “We’ve been bringing our own dogs and cats with us to work for decades, because we believe life is better with pets. We know that pets help us de-stress, lower blood pressure, get our exercise, and even forge stronger social connections.” Steven Feldman, Executive Director of HABRI, agrees: “Scientific research shows that pets in the workplace can boost productivity, collaboration and employee satisfaction,” said Feldman. “We hope that more companies and workplaces will follow the lead of Congress to begin to think about pets as a way to boost employee health and wellness.” Pets have had a presence in Congress from the beginning. In a recent interview, the Assistant Senate Historian, Dan Holt, said senators used to bring their...

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!