Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) Lauds Newly Published Science on Service Dogs as a Complementary Intervention for Veterans with PTSD
Washington, D.C. (April 28, 2021) — The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) announced today the online publication of a study titled, “The Effect of a PTSD Service Dog on Military Veterans’ Medication Regimens: A Cross-Sectional Pilot Study”, in the journal Anthrozoos. Findings of the study, conducted by researchers at the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine and the Purdue University College of Pharmacy, found no significant differences between post-9/11 U.S. veterans living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) who were provided with a psychiatric service dog and veterans on a waitlist to receive a service dog in terms of number and type of medications reported. However, veterans with a service dog were more likely to report that their doctor had decreased dosage or removed medications, as compared to veterans on the waitlist to acquire a service dog.
“Our previous research has found that PTSD service dogs can improve specific areas of functioning and symptomology for military veterans. This new research builds on these findings by exploring how PTSD service dogs impact veterans’ medication use,” said study co-author Dr. Kerri Rodriguez, Postdoctoral Researcher at Colorado State University. “These results indicate that PTSD service dogs played a positive supporting role. Veterans kept up with their medication regimens, indicating that the presence of the service dog was not associated with any lapse in standard treatment. While having a PTSD service dog may not completely alleviate veterans’ needs for sleep, pain, or anxiety medications, there were reported decreases in dosage levels, shedding additional light on the potential value of these service dogs as a complimentary intervention.”
The objective of this study was to quantify the effect of PTSD service dogs on medication use among a population of military veterans with PTSD. Fifty-two veterans living with a PTSD service dog and 44 veterans on a waitlist to receive a service dog were recruited from a database of individuals from K9s for Warriors. Both populations of veterans received treatment as usual. Of participants who reported at least one medication (n=96), participants listed an average of 6.87 medications in their regimens, including both prescription and over-the-counter medications. No significant differences in medication types or numbers between those with a service dog and those on the waitlist were found. However, researchers found that veterans with a service dog were more likely than those on the waitlist to report that their doctor had decreased dosage or removed medications since getting their service dog. In contrast, veterans on the waitlist were more likely to report that they had experienced no changes or an increased dose in their medications.
“The fact that veterans with service dogs reported a decrease in medication dosages while maintaining their primary medication regime overall adds to our scientific knowledge base about the benefits of service dogs as a complementary therapeutic intervention for veterans living with PTSD,” says Steven Feldman, President of HABRI. “It is our belief that these results will not only provide important future directions for continued research, but will also provide doctors, policymakers and the public with further evidence for more widespread consideration of service dogs as a positive option for veterans with PTSD.”
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.
Findings on PTSD symptomology were first published in The Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, and 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 PTSD, lower levels of depression, higher levels of life satisfaction and higher overall psychological wellbeing.
Additional findings, published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, focus on the objective indicators of mental health and wellness among veterans with PTSD. Specifically, the researchers measured physiological arousal (through the salivary cortisol awakening response) across groups as well as sleep quality and other indicators of stress, and found that the results complement the self-report assessments of psychosocial functioning reported in the first paper, and indicate better sleep quality, less anxiety, less anger and less alcohol abuse in veterans with a service dog.
“The combined results from this research, including these findings on medication usage, provide a foundation for continued investigation of the impacts of PTSD service dogs for veterans, including a more comprehensive look at their impact on pharmacotherapy,” added Dr. Rodriguez.
HABRI is a not-for-profit organization that maintains the world’s largest online library of human-animal bond research and information; funds innovative research projects to scientifically document the health benefits of companion animals; and informs the public about human-animal bond research and the beneficial role of companion animals in society. For more information, please visit https://www.habri.org/
More Press Releases
New Research to Study Impacts of Animal-Assisted Interventions for Youth in Residential Treatment Program
The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) announced today it has awarded a grant to the Institute for Human-Animal Connection, Graduate School of Social Work, University of Denver for a new study, Exploring the impacts of animal-assisted interventions on positive youth development for adolescents in residential treatment. The study aims to better understand the clinical, behavioral and educational impacts of the Animal-Assisted Intervention (AAI) programs at Green Chimneys, a therapeutic school and treatment center for children facing social, emotional, and behavioral challenges. “In conducting this study, we hope to better understand the impacts of the Green Chimneys AAI programs on student outcomes from the perspectives of the students who regularly participate in them,” explained the study’s Principal Investigator, Kevin Morris, PhD, Director of Research of the Institute for Human-Animal Connection, University of Denver. “The findings from this project will be combined with an array of other qualitative and quantitative studies underway at Green Chimneys, which we hope will create a more detailed understanding of the impacts of these programs.” The research team, led by Dr. Morris and Dr. Megan Mueller, Co-Director of the Tufts Institute for Human-Animal Interaction, and including Erin Flynn, MSW, and Jaci Gandenberger, MSW, both from the Institute for Human-Animal Connection at the University of Denver, will conduct semi-structured interviews with 20 5th-7th grade Green Chimneys students across both residential and day programs. After conducting the interviews, key themes will be identified and reviewed for common meanings and then grouped together via identified constitutive content that links the themes to one another. These student themes will be combined with the findings of previous qualitative studies conducted with Green Chimneys teaching, clinical and animal program staff to create a nuanced understanding of the mechanisms by which...
Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act Funding Now Available: Aid for Survivors of Domestic Violence and their Pets Arrives at Critical Time
The PAWS Act Coalition, a group of nonprofit and for-profit organizations, is working to raise awareness among the domestic violence shelter community of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Emergency and Transitional Pet Shelter and Housing Assistance Grant Program. This program will support shelter and transitional housing services for survivors of domestic violence and their companion animals, which was made possible by the passage of the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act by Congress in 2018. “The PAWS Act funding and new grants mark an important milestone in keeping more pets and their families together,” said Nina Leigh Krueger, president of Nestlé Purina PetCare. “Purina is committed to continuing to work alongside our partners to increase the number of pet-friendly domestic violence shelters so families and their pets can safely leave an abusive situation and heal together.” “With incidents of domestic violence increasing as a result of coronavirus stay-at-home orders, the need for pet-friendly sheltering will also grow, and this funding could not have come at a better time,” said Steven Feldman, Executive Director of the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI). “HABRI is proud to have participated in this two-plus year effort to support the successful implementation of the lifesaving PAWS Act. The PAWS Act Coalition and many in the greater pet care community have worked hard to make this grant program a reality.” The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) will provide up to five grants of $400,000 each, to begin on October 1, 2020. The primary goal of this funding is to support shelter and transitional housing services for survivors of domestic violence and their companion animals. With these grants, the DOJ seeks to increase the number of shelter beds and transitional housing options to meet the needs of domestic violence survivors who need shelter or housing for them and their companion animals. Funding provided by this grant will also provide...
Will Reading to Rabbits Improve Student Skills?
The Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) today announced it has awarded a $13,000 grant to the Association for Human-Animal Bond Studies for a new study, Listening EARS: How Does Reading to Rabbits Affect Reading Skills of Third Grade Students?, to uncover how reading aloud to a non-threatening presence, like a classroom rabbit, helps improve students’ reading skills. “The human-animal bond can lessen the stress young children can feel when taking on challenging tasks in the classroom, like reading aloud,” said Dr. Annie Petersen, Ed.D., Principal Investigator in the Listening EARS study. “This study will provide us with a valuable tool to understand and act on the benefits of small animals to student learning and development.” By utilizing small animals already present in classrooms (e.g. rabbits and guinea pigs), it is predicted that classroom interactions with an animal will improve 3rd grade students’ oral fluency and reading comprehension, two essential measures of academic success. “HABRI is committed to studying the impact of companion animals on child health and development,” said Steve Feldman, Executive Director of HABRI. “This new research will contribute to the growing body of scientific evidence that demonstrates the benefits of pets in the classroom.”