From PTSD to Paws

The Effects of Service Dogs on Veteran Mental Health

 One common breed of service dogs is the German shepherd breed

Aidan Crozier

One common breed of service dogs is the German shepherd breed

Service dogs can help combat a major problem plaguing the united states military, veteran suicide. Service dogs can help by providing relief for PTSD  (post-traumatic stress disorder) while also providing stability for veterans. Every day the United States loses 22-24 of its veterans to suicide, according to Americas Warrior Partnership (AWP),  a non-profit that advocates for veteran suicide awareness. Each loss is devastating, especially since almost all veteran suicides are preventable.

Some believe that service dogs are not a good solution to help veterans who are suffering from PTSD. In support of that claim, Purdue university found that service dogs cannot help their handlers with amnesia and risk-taking. Knowing this, the opposition draws the conclusion that providing service dogs in certain situations can subject the dog and veteran to danger.

However, organizations such as Vet 2 Vet service dogs, a nonprofit that provides veterans with service dogs free of charge, utilize an application process to make sure that the dogs are a good fit for the veteran. This ensures the safety of both the veteran and the dog. Vietnam Veteran John Kukitz, the event coordinator and a puppy raiser for the V2V organization, described the goal of the organization as paring veterans suffering from PTSD with service dogs to help them deal with the symptoms of PTSD. Kukitz explained that “no one understands a veteran like a veteran,” which is why he believes that the community they are building and the dogs they are training provide good options for those suffering from PTSD. Service dogs are effective in the treatment of PTSD because they can help reduce symptoms, such as hypervigilance, agitation, and restlessness, according to the Disability Network of Northern Michigan. Service dogs can also help decrease anxiety through the relationship that is built between the veteran and the dog. Pennridge High School senior Zach Klepeiss described the benefits that a service dog has provided for a veteran who he knows, stating that “the dog makes the veteran happier by reducing sources of depression and increasing the comfort and confidence of the veteran.”

For these reasons, the effectiveness of service dogs is undeniable and should be further explored for the sake of our veterans.