A new study suggests that veterans with PTSD experience fewer symptoms and a greater quality of life when they are paired with a service dog.
The study, conducted by a research team based at Purdue University and funded by the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) and Bayer Animal Health, examined veterans with PTSD who had service dogs as well as those who did not but were on a waiting list to receive one. The research team tracked cortisol levels — a marker used to assess stress — in participants throughout the course of each day to get a better understanding of how much stress each participant experienced. The researchers found that participants with service dogs tended to display signs of lower stress.
“We found that military veterans with a service dog in the home produced more cortisol in the mornings than those on the waitlist. This pattern is closer to the cortisol profile expected in healthy adults without PTSD. Having a service dog was also associated with less anger, less anxiety, and better sleep.”
— Kerri Rodriguez, Researcher, Purdue University
While the study’s findings show promise in the treatment of PTSD, the study’s principal investigator, Maggie O’Haire, said that a larger study is planned to gather more data to better understand the physiological effects of service dogs on those with PTSD.