Dogs Help Traumatized Soldiers

by on August 16th, 2011 at 7:00 am

PTSD DogModern-day warfare is horrifying. The battlefield weapons are hidden and affect large numbers of soldiers, creating physical wounds that cause psychological problems. And these problems end up requiring the help of scientists to solve.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, American soldiers must constantly watch out for home-made bombs known as IEDs (improvised explosive devices).

According to USA Today, insurgents in Afghanistan used IEDs to wound more U.S. soldiers in 2010 than in all the previous years of the Afghanistan War.1 A Congressional report from 2007 says, “Improvised explosive devices…have caused over 60% of all American combat casualties in Iraq…”2

The after-effects of IEDs leave soldiers physically and mentally scarred.

This month, Boston.com cited government statistics showing that 140,000 U.S. soldiers had received brain injuries from IEDs in Iraq.3

One study found a higher rate of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among soldiers seriously wounded by IEDs.4 The authors said these soldiers sustained burns from IEDs as well as mild traumatic brain injuries and shockwave-related injuries from the explosives.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder. People usually get it after experiencing something traumatic like combat. The National Institute of Mental Health says the symptoms can include flashbacks or bad dreams and a constant feeling of tension.5

But now there’s hope for veterans with PTSD. The Kansas City Star reports that a study from the University of Missouri’s veterinary college is helping these veterans by teaching them how to train shelter dogs.6

The college says that the study, the Veterans and Shelter Dogs Initiative, is comprised of three phases: a dog obedience training program, a dog adoption mentoring program, and a PTSD service dog training program.7

This isn’t the only study of its kind. In 2009, The Kansas City Star reported that the Department of Defense was sponsoring a study that would supply veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars with psychiatric service dogs.8

Service Dogs for Veterans

Veterans with PTSD don’t have to wait for studies to find a service dog, though. Two nonprofit organizations — Patriot PAWS and Puppies Behind Bars — can help.

Patriot PAWS has inmates from two women’s prisons in Texas train the dogs for veterans.9 Puppies Behind Bars does much the same thing by working with prison inmates in New York.10

PureCalm™ works quickly to facilitate a calmed mood and soothed nerves.

Sources:

  1. Tom Vanden Brook, “Afghan Insurgents Match Surge with More IEDs,” USA Today
  2. Clay Wilson, “Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in Iraq and Afghanistan: Effects and Countermeasures,” Congressional Research Service
  3. Theo Emery, “Wars’ Toll Speeds Push for Better Helmets,” Boston.com
  4. Mora AG et al, “Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Combat Casualties with Burns Sustaining Primary Blast and Concussive Injuries,” The Journal of Trauma
  5. National Institute of Mental Health, “What are the Symptoms of PTSD?” NIMH
  6. Mará Rose Williams, “Columbia Program Pairs Shelter Dogs with Veterans Returning From Service,” The Kansas City Star
  7. Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction, “Veterans and Shelter Dogs Initiative,” University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine
  8. Alan Bavley, “Defense Department Finances Study That Pairs Dogs with Troops Suffering PTSD,” The Kansas City Star
  9. Patriot PAWS, “ Committed to Service Dog Training.”
  10. Puppies Behind Bars, “About Us: Service Dog Program.”

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