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Service Dogs For PTSD Vets Rise Along With Obstacles

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It is International Assistance Dog Week this week where we recognize service dogs that help humans with their disabilities. But, not all disabilities are physically noticeable…… these are the invisible disabilities like PTSD (Post Tramatic Stress Disorder) .

Many dogs provide support to veterans suffering from PTSD, but the Army’s new policy on Service dogs is making it very hard for our soldiers to obtain a PTSD Service Dog. Ten thousand or more combat veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder flooded into VA hospitals every three months this year, pushing the number of patients ill with the disorder above 200,000. Naturally this is straining the system and it’s resources. This new policy the Army has implemented is putting the lives of soldiers recovering from physical injuries and mental illness at risk.

Since the Iraq and Afghanistan wars began, 211,819 combat veterans have been treated. The VA says it sees only about half the veterans from the two wars, because hundreds of thousands seek care elsewhere or not at all.

There used to be a  gray area regarding who can have a dog accompany them into certain places regarding PTSD-trained dogs. They were considered as therapy dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support  and did not qualify as service animals under the ADA. But the newly revised edition of the ADA guidelines PTSD is now recognized as a recognized physical disability.

There have been dramatic improvements in many veterans’ lives after they’ve been matched with dogs, although it is not a cure, people with PTSD are able to manage their challenges much better than they have in years after bonding with a PTSD service dog, and the demand for PTSD trained service dogs is very high. Waiting for one can be as long as 4 years.

PTSD service dogs are trained to respond to certain cues, such as nudging an owner into a petting session if they exhibit panic attack symptoms, but research shows that when people focus on petting a dog, it can increase oxytocin, a chemical that quiets the brain’s fear response. Caring for a pet also helps people become more secure and self-sufficient, so waiting for specialty trained PTSD dog might not be necessary for everybody. It all depends on what your needs are.

The Warrior Canine Connection teaches Veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) the skill of training mobility service dogs to be partnered with Veterans with mobility impairments. They found that the program reduced the systems of PTSD by helping their fellow wounded warriors. 

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