Introduction: The objective of this article is to review the use of psychiatric service dogs (PSD) as an effective treatment in addition to currently utilized treatment options for veterans diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Method: A PubMed and Google Scholar literature search for randomized clinical trials (RCTs) for psychotherapies and treatment in military personnel and veterans was used. This author also searched reference lists of articles and chose reviews using search words PTSD, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, Combat Veterans and Service Dogs. This author used the abbreviation PTSD, instead of the spelling out Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, in the final search because PTSD is more frequently used in writings and everyday language. Twenty-three pertinent articles that met the inclusion criteria were retrieved and served as the basis for this clinical review.
Results: The most commonly studied psychiatric treatments for PTSD are cognitive processing therapy (CPT) and prolonged exposure (PE). Medications are sometimes used to help improve symptoms. Some veterans are averse to try or continue with trauma focused, evidence-based treatments. Anecdotal evidence on both psychosocial and physiological benefits to veterans provided by psychiatric service dogs (PSD) has emerging research. As of this writing, evidence-based research on the impact of PSD for veterans with PTSD is limited. This restricts the assessment, application and development of guidelines for the use of PSDs.
Conclusion: A PSD for PTSD can help disrupt episodes of anxiety and diminish the effects of the trauma associated with the triggering events. However, studies on how useful service dogs are for mental health continues to be examined through various studies. Additional research is required to establish a cause and effect link between psychiatric service dogs and improvement in PTSD symptoms.
Gayle-Bennett A. The Effect of Psychiatric Service Dogs as An Adjunct to Treatment for Military Veterans With Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). University of Lynchburg DMSc Doctoral Project Assignment Repository. 2021; 3(3).
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