5 Ways Dogs Help Veterans With PTSD

5 Ways Dogs Help Veterans With PTSD

A pet can make anyone happy, but pet ownership can be especially helpful for veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Many veterans returning home from overseas have experienced horrible situations that later cause PTSD.

Many different types of therapy can help treat the flashbacks, anxiety, depression, numbness, nightmares and other symptoms that characterize PTSD. While traditional therapy can be extremely beneficial, some veterans have difficulty accessing it in the VA system, or difficulty admitting the need for therapy.

It's important to seek out professional help for PTSD, but veterans may also want to consider getting a pet. Psychology researchers have started to recognize the therapeutic benefits of owning a dog. No matter if it's a Pomeranian or a Pit Bull, adopting a dog can be surprisingly helpful for veterans with PTSD. Here are five ways dogs can help turn your life around:

  1. Get active. Dogs help you get out of the house, get active and meet new people. Depression and anxiety can make veterans want to stay cooped up inside, but that only lets these conditions worsen. Dogs need a lot of exercise, which is the perfect reason for owners to get out of the house. The act of simply leaving the house can boost your mood, but getting exercise in the process is also a great way to fight depression.

  2. Rebuild trust. Dog ownership helps those living with PTSD rebuild trust. Dogs are loyal and always there for you. Because the ability to trust is often damaged by PTSD, knowing you can depend on your dog can help you learn to trust people again, too.

  3. Give more love. Dogs bring out feelings of affection, and they love unconditionally. A lot of people with PTSD are ashamed of their condition or the way it affects their interactions with other people. Having a bad day can push loved ones away, but a dog will always be there.

  4. Transition to civilian life. Dogs can be trained and take orders well, which is especially helpful for veterans who are used to giving orders. Authoritativeness often doesn't has a place in civilian life, which can be a hard thing for veterans to adjust to. Having a dog to train can give veterans an opportunity to use their command skills in a constructive way.

  5. Feel protected. Dogs make you feel safe and protected. Nightmares, traumatic flashbacks, anxiety and depression from PTSD can make you feel vulnerable. Dogs are always by your side, reminding you that you're not alone. Larger dogs such as German Shepherds can also protect you. Even if you're never in a situation where that's necessary, it's a comforting feeling.

How To Adopt A Dog

Adopting a dog is a big decision and should not be taken lightly. Dogs do help with PTSD, but it's important to consider whether you are ready and able to take care of a pet before adopting. If you are ready to adopt, there are many organizations that connect veterans to pet adoption agencies and other pet ownership resources. Pets For Patriots or Vets Adopt Pets may be good places to start. A local animal shelter or animal rescue charity can also help you get started.

Veterans who served as K-9 handlers in the military often look for ways to be reunited with the animals they served with. Some veterans have to wait for their companion to be released from military service before they can be adopted. One such veteran is Lance Cpl. David Pond, who had to wait years to be reunited with his dog. Read his inspiring story and learn how he made it possible here.

Veterans who have received a disability rating for their PTSD may also be able to obtain a service dog for their condition. It's well-known that service dogs can have a positive effect on veterans with physical disabilities. The VA recognizes this and often covers the service animal for these veterans. However, the benefits of service dogs for veterans with PTSD and other "invisible" wounds are not in the forefront.

According to statistics from K9s For Warriors, a nonprofit that pairs combat veterans with service dogs, 92 percent of the veterans were able to reduce their medication or stop taking medication altogether within 6 months of graduating from their dog-pairing program.

Until VA policies shift to recognize that service dogs provide tangible assistance to those with PTSD, veterans can look into receiving a service dog from one of many nonprofits. Organizations such as Paws for Veterans, This Able Veteran and K9s For Warriors provide service animals to veterans at little or no cost.

Help Disabled Veterans With A Car Donation

A great way to help veterans with disabilities is to donate your car to Vehicles For Veterans. The proceeds from your vehicle donation go to programs for disabled veterans. We accept nearly all vehicles, regardless of age or condition.

To donate your car, please call 1-855-811-4838 or fill out an online car donation form. We provide free towing, a tax deduction and a great way to give back to disabled veterans! 

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