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Role of Dogs in Treating Soldiers with PTSD

“A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.”
-By Josh Billings

Perhaps it is this love only that makes the canine a man’s best friend; a friend who listens to you quietly, a friend who doesn’t understands your language but your emotions. Even it has been scientifically proven that dogs are very intuitive when it comes to human emotions. This very quality of the canines helps the veteran soldiers in recovering from the Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

PTSD is basically a type of anxiety disorder. This disorder is an outcome of extreme emotional turmoil caused due to the threat of acute injury or death. Flash backs, panic attacks, depression, difficulty in socializing and nightmares are some of the common symptoms of PTSD. As per a research, it has been revealed that 1 out of 5 veteran soldiers suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. This figure is of the case that has been diagnosed and reported. The startling fact is that many of the cases are never brought in light. Further studies have revealed that the dogs can be really helpful for soldiers with PTSD.

The Canine Therapy:

No science can ever explain a relation between a dog and its master as it’s something heart to heart. However, science can certainly explain that how a canine can bring a soldier suffering from PTSD back to normal life.

The canine therapy is all about using a dog as a companion to heal the patients (not just PTSD suffers, but also others who are going through different mental or physical illnesses). Proper training is given to the dog before finally sending it to the patient. The training includes everything, right from accepting a stranger as a friend, to making the master feel relaxed through different gestures. A canine trained for therapy is called the service dog.

There are theories stating that the dogs can sense the hormonal changes associated with stress and thus, respond accordingly. While there are some other theories according to which the canines are considered good at reading the human body language. Irrespective of whatever the reason is, surveys have concluded that the service dogs bring in a new ray of hope in the lives of PTSD sufferers. There have been cases wherein even doctors gave up but the canine therapy helped the patient in recovering.

Call it a miracle or unconditional love of the dogs that works as the medicine, the fact is that it works excellently. Whenever the dog finds that the vet is under stress or a little upset, it tries to distract him or her with different gestures. Sometimes it licks the master’s face or jumps when the owner comes home or rests its head in the lap; all these gestures make a lot of difference. These simple and sweet attempts of showing affection makes the patient feel that there is someone who really loves and cares for him and her without any personal interest. In this way, the dogs turn up as the real companion of soldiers with PTSD.

Some scientific facts:

Our body functions on different hormones and the secretion of these hormones are held responsible for human mood swings. One of the most important hormones associated with our mood is Oxytocin, which is referred as the ‘love hormone’. As per the studies, whenever our loved ones show any gesticulation of affection towards us, the production of Oxytocin increases. Another study says that even by mere petting or looking at a dog makes the production level of Oxytocin rise. This is one of the best benefits for the PTSD patients, the more their ‘love hormone’ production increases, the faster they recover. In fact, spending quality time with the dog also improves the level of Serotonin (another hormone related with the overall feeling of well-being). On the same hand, it has been noticed that hormones like Cortisol that leads to stress witnesses a downfall just by spending a couple of hours with a fluffy friend.

Organizations that provide service dogs to soldiers with PTSD

The expense of training dogs to help the soldiers in need is quite high and thus, the military finds it a bit hard to afford. However, there are some very renowned organizations that provide the service dogs to the soldiers. These organizations make sure that every soldier who is suffering from any sort of emotional trauma is treated with a fluffy companion. Listed below are a few names:

Paws Assisting Wounded Warriors

Warrior Canine Connection

Paws and Stripes

Paws for Purple Hearts

Life lessons to be learnt from dogs

The love, the affection, the concern that dogs shower on their master is unconditional. They have no hidden interest behind it. This is something that we should learn from these little fellows. Though they don’t understand our language and neither do they belong to our world, still they are always there to love and support us whenever required. Moreover, they never ask for anything in return, but as a token of love even if you gift them a little delicious dog treat, they become more than happy.


With over 15 years of experience in dealing with pets, the PetsWorld Team is now a constant guide for thousands of pet owners in India. Their passion for improving the lives of pets can be seen in their featured blog posts dedicated to pet care.

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