Friday, September 4, 2009

Dogs get nod in study to help vets with post traumatic stress disorder

A new study is hoping man's best friend can help veterans struggling with post traumatic stress disorder.

The U.S. Department of Defense is starting a 12-month study to find out exactly how the dogs help by comparing soldiers with PTSD who have dogs with a similar group of soldiers without a dog. Researchers will measure changes in symptoms and medication use.

These psychiatric service dogs have been assisting people with a variety of mental illnesses since the late 1990s. About 10,000 such dogs are now in use.

Joan Esnayra, president and founder of the Psychiatric Service Dog Society, has a message on their website for veterans: They have a "soulmate in their dog who is ever loyal and compassionate" and a community that understands them.

And that has the military interested, according to a Kansas City Starstory.

"It's a powerful intervention. We expect a very large effect," research psychologist Craig Love told the Star.

Love will be conducting the study at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center with Esnayra.

The two researchers presented their work Thursday during a military health research conference held this week in Kansas City. Love and Esnayra surveyed 39 people with PTSD who were teamed with psychiatric service dogs.

Eighty-two percent have reported fewer PTSD symptoms since they have had the dogs, and 40% said they were using fewer medications.

Sharon L. Peters wrote about a holiday gift in 2007 for stressed troops in Iraq: two long-eared, highly sensitive black Labrador retrievers that military officials hope will help soldiers navigate the ragged emotions of life in a war zone. They were trained by America's VetDogs.

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