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.
Full Citation: Rodriguez, Kerri E., et al. “The Effect of a PTSD Service Dog on Military Veterans’ Medication Regimens: A Cross-Sectional Pilot Study.” Anthrozoös (2021): 1-14.
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 Scientific Study: Dogs Improve Social Skills for Children with Autism
The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) and Green Chimneys announced the publication of a study exploring the effectiveness of an animal-assisted social skills intervention for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Research was conducted at Green Chimneys, a therapeutic school and treatment center for children facing social, emotional, and behavioral challenges. Findings demonstrate that incorporating therapy dogs in social skills training is a valid approach to teaching children with ASD to engage with peers and improve social interaction. “Not only do dogs appear to have a positive effect on children’s emotional states, but they can also be motivating factors that encourage social interaction and involvement,” said Dr. Joanna Becker, PhD, Sam and Myra Ross Institute Research Associate and the study’s principal investigator. “Animal-assisted interventions are a valid approach for teaching children with autism spectrum disorders the skills necessary to engage with peers, family members, and the larger community.” Dr. Becker, along with co-PIs Dr. Erica Rogers and Dr. Bethany Burrows, analyzed 31 Green Chimneys students ages 8-14 diagnosed with ASD and compared social and emotional functioning before and after the intervention. Students either participated in an animal-assisted social skills group or in a traditional social skills training group without an animal present. Findings showed that the inclusion of dogs in social skills training was more effective than traditional programs. Specifically, participants who received the animal-assisted social skills intervention exhibited fewer social skills deficits overall, fewer restricted and repetitive behaviors, and more typical social communication following the intervention. The study also found that participants who received the animal-assisted social skills intervention exhibited a greater level of change in social skills, perspective taking, theory of mind, and decreased feelings of isolation...
Turn Your Office Into A ‘Woofice’
The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) announced today the latest installment of The Pet Effect campaign highlighting the many benefits of pets at work. The Woofice combines research supporting the benefits of pet-inclusive workplaces with practical tools for offices that want to become pet inclusive, all delivered with an entertaining, lighthearted approach. The Woofice video features a series of vignettes designed to pay homage to the beloved TV show, The Office, while delivering research-based messages about the positive impact of pets in the workplace. “With millennial pet owners driving demand for more pet-friendly offices, The Woofice campaign is incredibly timely,” said Steven Feldman HABRI Executive Director. “It is HABRI’s genuine hope that The Woofice videos and campaign content catch on and inspire people to take steps to create pet-friendly workplaces, so that the benefits of strong and healthy human-animal bonds can not only be experienced at home but also every weekday from 9 to 5!” Research supports a host of benefits from having pets at work. For example, research has found a link between a pet-friendly workplace and improved communication and collaboration among employees. Studies have also shown that pets can help buffer stress, encourage interaction and rapport between neighbors in communities, and improve other elements of physical and mental health, such as increased physical activity and decreased depression. “The Woofice video is a fun way to educate employees and HR professionals on the importance of pet-inclusive workplaces for greater productivity, enhanced employee engagement, and improved relationships in the office,” Feldman added. The Woofice campaign includes data on pet-inclusive workplaces, which found that pet-friendly companies are more likely to attract, engage and retain employees. It also highlights research showing that more than three times as many employees at pet-friendly workplaces reported a positive...
Nationwide’s Chief Pet Officer Joins HABRI Board of Trustees
The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) today announced that Heidi Sirota, Nationwide’s Chief Pet Officer, has joined the HABRI Board of Trustees. The HABRI Board of Trustees is the governing body that oversees HABRI’s programs and activities. This announcement follows the recognition earlier this year of Nationwide as a Human-Animal Bond Certified Company and reinforces Nationwide’s strong support for HABRI’s mission to advance the vital role of the human-animal bond in the health and well-being of individuals, families, communities and companion animals. “Nationwide’s support of HABRI is another way we help people and their pets experience better lives together,” said Heidi Sirota. “I am thrilled to join the HABRI Board and collaborate with other pet industry experts to advance science, educate the public and advocate for a healthier, more pet-friendly society.” “HABRI is grateful for Nationwide’s longstanding commitment to supporting scientific research on the human-animal bond,” said Steve Feldman, Executive Director of HABRI. “Stepping up as a HABRI Trustee only further underscores Nationwide’s commitment to the human-animal bond and to the health and wellbeing of pet and human lives.” Scientific evidence increasingly shows that pets improve heart health, alleviate depression, increase well-being, support child health and development, and contribute to healthy aging. In addition, companion animals can assist in the treatment of a broad range of conditions from post-traumatic stress to Alzheimer’s disease to autism spectrum disorder. The benefits of the human-animal bond impact more than just human health. Findings from a HABRI survey of pet owners demonstrate that knowledge of the scientific research on the human-animal bond motivates pet owners to take better care of their pets – from providing pets with better veterinary care to purchasing pet health insurance. In March 2020, Nationwide became a Human-Animal Bond Certified...