(Quick Mention) https://va.iowa.gov
(Revamp from the VA) K-9s for Warriors: Because Together We Stand
(Resource Mention) https://animalwellnessmagazine.com/service-dogs-veterans-ptsd/
Florida Veteran Organization pairs with Purdue University to study the beneficial effects of service dogs in treating PTSD and TBI.
Purdue University, in conjunction with the National Institute of Health (NIH), Indiana University, and K9s For Warriors, recently collaborated on a study testing the performance of service dogs as a treatment for veterans who suffer from PTSD and TBI. Dr. Maggie O’Haire, Purdue’s asst. professor of human-animal interaction, teamed with 141 veterans awaiting admission to the K9s For Warriors program. Half the veterans were given service dogs, the other half were not. O’Haire discovered that the veterans paired with service dogs had “lower depression, lower PTSD symptoms, lower levels of anxiety, and lower absenteeism from work due to health issues.”
Dr. Hsiao, a Program Director at the NIH, awarded the Clinical and Translational Science Award to Dr. O’Haire to further fund the study. “The study found that PTSD symptoms were significantly lower in veterans with service dogs,” said Dr. Hsiao. “This is an innovative approach to a serious medical issue.” When commenting on the study, Dr. Anantha Shekhar, a professor at Indiana University School of Medicine, said “Service dogs are a great resource for veterans to modulate their own reactions and to cope better with symptoms of PTSD.”
Read the full story at ConsumersAdvocate.org
PILOT STUDY AFFIRMS ANTICIPATED OUTCOME
K9s For Warriors recently partnered with Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine on a pilot study testing the effectiveness of service dogs as a complementary treatment for military members and veterans who suffer from PTSD. Dr. Maggie O’Haire, assistant professor of human-animal interaction, along with Kerri E. Rodriguez, research assistant, conducted the study and published the findings earlier this year.
The study had a total of 141 participants from the K9s For Warriors’ program or individuals on the program’s waiting list. Half of the program’s participants had service dogs; the other half did not.
The study found that PTSD symptoms were significantly lower in veterans with service dogs, demonstrating that service dogs are associated with lower PTSD symptoms among war veterans. “The initial findings showed lower depression, lower PTSD symptoms, lower levels of anxiety, and lower absenteeism from work due to health issues,” says Dr. O’Haire.
Each morning, she measured levels of cortisol – a stress hormone, in each participant; an increase of the hormone in the morning is indicative of a healthy level or curve. We tend to see a rise in cortisol immediately after waking up. “We call it the morning rise”, says Dr. O’Haire.
Dr. Anantha Shekhar, Director of Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute, and professor at Indiana University School of Medicine was the lead researcher on the grant at the university. “Service dogs are a great resource for veterans to modulate their own reactions and to cope better with symptoms of PTSD,” says Dr. Shekhar.
Dr. Timothy Hsiao, a Yale graduate, as well as the Program Director of the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) at the National Institute of Health (NIH) awarded the NCATS award to Dr. O’Haire as a KL2 Scholar under the CTSA Career Development Award.
“This is an innovative approach to a serious medical issue,” said Dr. Hsiao. “This study highlights the unique skills that the CTSA Program Hubs and their KL2 Scholars bring to address difficult conditions like PTSD.”
Other key findings (in a related study) included a significant reduction in suicidal thoughts, required medication (not suggested by K9s For Warriors), night terrors, and an increase of three to four more hours of sleep per night. That is, in part, due to the fact that the service dogs are trained to wake up the warriors when experiencing night terrors. Purdue University is currently studying this behavior and although it hasn’t been substantiated scientifically, it has been reported by K9s For Warriors anecdotally.
Dr. O’Haire has been granted additional funding from NIH to perform a large-scale study on the efficacy of service dogs as a complementary treatment of PTSD symptoms in military members and veterans. The study is scheduled to be completed in 2019.
THEY RESCUED EACH OTHER
Her senses were always up, in a constant state of fight or flight, ever since that day in May of 2012. Tiffany Baker, an Army National Guard soldier, was traveling in a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle while stationed in Afghanistan when it hit a 250-pound IED. The bomb was so powerful, it rolled the heavily-enforced vehicle.
Baker sustained major physical injuries, requiring four hip surgeries the next year. She also suffered a traumatic brain injury because of the attack. “I was taking 17 medications between being overseas and then coming back,” says Baker. She was frequently going to the VA, seeing a counselor, psychiatrists, and psychologists. “They were constantly giving me medications.” She was feeling more and more isolated.
In February 2015, Baker medically retired, saying goodbye to her unit, the 1157 Transportation Company. That same year, she met Buddy through K9s For Warriors.
Buddy had been badly abused and neglected by his owner. Before being rescued, he was found tied to a tree without any food or water. “K9s For Warriors is great at pairing the dog with veterans,” says Baker. She explains that Buddy always covers her back. He’s “got her 6”, and he creates a safe barrier between her and other people, allowing her to function in public.
PTSD is classified as a mental disorder that develops after a person experiences severe trauma as a result of a traumatic event such as warfare, sexual assault, auto accident, or other severely traumatic events. PTSD symptoms are re-experiencing, avoidance, arousal, and negative changes in beliefs and feelings. The disability manifests itself in depression, anxiety, night terrors, and social embarrassment resulting in isolation. Many individuals have initial symptoms while others can worsen, requiring treatment.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), who provide help with a wide array of veteran services ranging from affordable health care to low interest home loans, it is common to have reactions such as upsetting memories of an event, increased anxiety, or trouble sleeping after experiencing a traumatic event. If these reactions do not go away or worsen, then the individual may have PTSD.
Along with TBI and MST, PTSD is recognized under the American Veterans Aid (AVA), the Department of Justice through the American Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Veteran’s Association of America (VA). The Department of Defense (DoD) is also strongly committed to providing service members and families with access to quality mental health care and resources for all mental health conditions including PTSD.
For more information on PTSD treatment options, visit the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, PTSD: National Center for PTSD or the DoD, which encourages service members to ask for help by affirming that seeking help is actually a sign of strength.
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