Service Dogs Help Veterans with PTSD

MarilynPosted by Marilyn Lash

December 9, 2010

There’s some really interesting research being funded by the Department of Defense on the use of psychiatric service dogs to help veterans deal with the psychological wounds of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Many veterans who have received service dogs are reporting dramatic decreases in the symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as well as the use of medications.

Service dogs help these veterans determine the safety of their environment and make it easier for them to leave home and go into public places.  Prior to this, many veterans with PTSD were so anxious and under such stress in public that they were constantly scanning for snipers, bombs and other dangers.  The dogs are trained to jolt a veteran from a flashback which is a classic symptom of PTSD.  Dogs can also be trained to dial 911 for emergency assistance and they may even be able to sense a panic attack before it begins.

This program is funded under the Service Dogs for Veterans Act.  Under a pilot program run by the Department of Veterans Affairs, veterans with PTSD receive service dogs.  It costs about $20,000 to train a psychiatric service dog and match it with a veteran.  Previously service dogs were primarily used for veterans who had lost their vision or had severe physical wounds.  Given the large number of veterans dealing with PTSD as they return from war zones, this innovative program offers promising hope.

We’d like to hear your thoughts and comments about this new program.

7 responses to “Service Dogs Help Veterans with PTSD”

  1. My husband is a United States soldier with 5 combat deployments and suffers from PTSD. He is still serving on Active Duty and while in South Carolina as a DI he used Equine Therapy to help relieve some systems of PTSD. When we were stationed in Alaska, bringing horses was not an option, so service dogs became something we looked in to. We have had Scotty in our life for 3 months, in that time, my husband is laughing more and completely off meds. He has more nights of sleep in one week than he had in 3 years. Scotty has truly saved his life and our marriage and the quality of life for our children is drastically better. In doing this and seeing the change we have partnered with a self trainer in Anchorage and formed a nonprofit organization to help veterans and soldiers receive or train under the ADA law a service animal for PTSD. Our hope is that noone struggle to find something like we did but that we can “Pay it forward, one paw at a time!”

  2. Kevin says:

    There is a local organization near us helping to train service dogs for veterans and others with ptsd and other health disorders called Medical Service Dogs they are working with the local VA, but there are many people who don’t qualify for the program and are in desperate need for a service dog to help them cope. It is unfortunate there isn’t more funding available for organizations like this one as they really do a great deal of good for the community and our vets and the training is very time consuming and costs nearly $20k as the author mentioned.

  3. Marie G. Cooney says:

    While most people are aware of the use of highly trained Service Animals for people who are blind or deaf, the use of Service and/or Therapy Animals has been greatly extended. I am very proud to be from Minnesota, where Senator Al Franken has worked hard on programs to match Service Animals with men and women who have served our country in the times of war.

    What many people are not aware about is the fact that neurologists, psychiatrists, and others can “write prescriptions” for service animals, that may not be as highly trained, but are equally valuable for the physical and mental well being of their patients or clients.

    Two different medical providers have written a prescription or really a letter stating that it is “medically beneficial, theraputic, and necessary” for me to have my service animal. This letter has been presented to the manager of the appartments, where I have lived.

    Another very helpful resource is SARA: Service Animal Registry of America, which you can google for more information. Not only can you register your animal with them, but you can purchase photo identifications with ADA laws listed on the back, so you have less problems with public access with your Service Animal.

    One last comment: Because my disability (TBI, seizures, depression, etc) is not obvious, people sometimes ask me what exactly my service dog does for me. I have found the best response is often, “I prefer to not discuss my personal medical situation with others, especially those I’ve just met. The more important thing is to recognize that the law that have been enacted to help and protect people who are blind or deaf has been extended to help a lot more people, such as me.” It’s not the tricks they can do, but the person they help, that makes service animals our family.

    Marie G. Cooney
    TBI Survivor

  4. This website below has information for veterans and service dogs and may be helpful.

    I also suggest contacting the National Center for PTSD at

    The PTSD Infromation Line is 802-296-6300 and their email is

  5. As a Vietnam veteran with PTSD and still working as an electrician, is there any reason to think that I could be considered for a service dog under this law?

  6. Marilyn Lash says:

    Dear Phillip,
    I suggest contacting your local Vet Center, Dept of Veteran Affairs, or VA Hospital to inquire about the PTSD service dog program. If they do not have the information, the Purple Heart Program for vets is likely to know about it. I do not have the contact information. Best wishes and thank you for your service.

  7. Phillip E. Rosen says:

    I am a veteran with service in Operations Desert Storm 1991 and Iraqi Freedom 2004 who is service connected with PTSD, I like the idea of having a service dog to assist me during days and nights when I experience symptoms of PTSD. Please send me an email so I can contact you about the PTSD service dog. Thank you, Phillip

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