Service dogs can be an effective way to provide support to individuals with disabilities or other needs. While service dogs are most commonly thought of as being for those who are blind or have mobility issues, there are many ways that service dogs can be helpful to people. One area in which service dogs are being used more frequently is to help people with PTSD.
What is a service dog?
A service dog is a dog that has been specially trained to provide service to an individual with a need and/or disability. Most often, service dogs are associated with seeing eye dogs, who help guide the blind. However, there are a wide range of uses for dogs. They can be trained for many types of assistance. In order to be considered a service dog, the dog must go through specific training and be given certification as a service dog.
Why are service dogs used for people with PTSD?
PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) can develop after an individual experiences a significant traumatic event or series of events. This can include serving in the military in a combat zone, experiencing a car accident, or being assaulted, among other events. Afterward, the individual can experience negative symptoms as a result of what they went through, including panic attacks. According to the Washington Post, service dogs provide assistance to people with PTSD to help minimize symptoms from occurring as well as help the individual deal with the symptoms if they arise. Service dogs are used as a supplement to other treatment methods, such as therapy and medication.
How do service dogs help?
According to Psychology Today, service dogs help those with PTSD in two specific ways: reduction of symptoms and management of symptoms.
Reduction of symptoms
Service dogs help reduce symptoms of PTSD by offering healthy companionship to the individual. It is well-known that pets and animal companions can improve symptoms of depression, reduce anxiety, and promote a greater sense of well-being. By helping keep the individual calmer and identifying potential symptoms early, a service dog can help reduce occurrences of negative symptoms of PTSD.
Management of symptoms
Even if an individual with PTSD experiences negative symptoms, such as anxiety, a service dog can still be helpful. Service dogs specially trained for PTSD intervene and comfort the person through physical contact. Service dogs can also be trained to bring items to the person, such as anxiety medication or comfort items. In these ways, the service dog can help the person experiencing the symptoms of PTSD to lessen their severity and length of effect.
Caring for a Service Dog
As an animal companion, a service dog typically requires the same care as a non-service dog. This includes adequate food and water and proper grooming. Service dogs should be given regular exercise and play time, as well. Just like any other animal companion, a service dog requires health care. That includes keeping up with vaccinations, addressing health concerns that arise, and providing preventive medicine such as Immune+Heart products from True Leaf Pet. By taking good care of a service dog, people with PTSD will have the support they need to be healthy and live happy lives.