Known as the invisible wound of military service, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has a profound impact on U.S. Veterans returning home. According to the National Center for PTSD, 11-20% of Veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan experience PTSD. This “invisible” injury along with anxiety and depression make it difficult for Veterans to maintain relationships, hold down a job, and engage with their community.
There are four symptoms identified with PTSD but every Veteran experiences these very differently. Symptoms include reliving the event, avoiding things that remind them of the event, increase in negative thoughts and feelings, and feeling on edge.
Currently, the Veteran’s Administration provides treatment for PTSD with therapy and medication but has declined to cover the veterinary care for service dogs who assist Veterans with PTSD, like they do for service dogs who assist Veteran’s with physical disabilities. While there is abundant research on the benefits of service dogs for people with physical disabilities, the same cannot be said for understanding how a service dog impacts mental health. PTSD and other mental health issues are a top priority for the Veteran’s Administration who is working on a study to understand the effectiveness of a service dog versus an emotional support dog on the quality of life for Veterans with PTSD.
While the learnings are being compiled for release, many Veterans will tell you that having a service dog has changed their life. According to a recent Purdue study, “Veterans who had a service dog reported significantly fewer symptoms of PTSD and better scores for psychological well-being, coping skills, and other measures of well-being.”
For Afghanistan Combat Veteran and recipient of a Dogtopia sponsored service dog, Russ, credits his relationship with Quinn (his goldendoodle) for stopping his nightmares and no longer needing to take 17 pills every day.
“To be honest with you, Quinn saved my life,” said Russ. “There’s been times I have contemplated and a couple times I’ve tried to commit suicide. With Quinn, I have someone who is counting on me now. We’re in it together.” Click here to watch Russ and Quinn’s moving story about their relationship.
Through the service dog sponsorship program, the Dogtopia Foundation and Dogtopia daycares are proud to work with Assistance Dog International certified service dog organizations that provide service dogs to Veterans experiencing PTSD and physical disabilities. Since 2018, 71 service dogs have been sponsored by Dogtopia daycares and their pet parents and 13 have been paired with Veterans after completing their two-year training.
We are so grateful for the support of our Noble Cause and seeing first-hand how enabling dogs to change our world is making a difference in not only the lives of these deserving Veterans, but all who support our service dog sponsorship program.
Join us in our Noble Cause and help sponsor a service dog for a Veteran! Click here to donate today.