Psychiatric Service Dog Intervention Can Reduce PTSD Symptom Severity

Partnering with a trained psychiatric service dog tied to reduced PTSD symptom severity and significantly lower scores for depression, anxiety

By Elana Gotkine HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, June 6, 2024 (HealthDay News) — For veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), partnership with a trained psychiatric service dog is associated with lower PTSD symptom severity, according to a study published online June 4 in JAMA Network Open.

Sarah C. Leighton, from the University of Arizona in Oro Valley, and colleagues examined the associations between psychiatric service dog partnership and self-reported and clinician-rated PTSD symptom severity, depression, anxiety, and psychosocial functioning after three months of intervention. Participants were veterans with a PTSD diagnosis who were allocated to the intervention or control group (81 and 75, respectively). Participants in the intervention group received a psychiatric service dog for PTSD, while those allocated to the control group were on the waiting list based on the date of application submitted to the service dog organization.

The researchers found that the intervention group had significantly lower PTSD symptom severity than the control group based on the PTSD Checklist for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) mean score (41.9 versus 51.7) and the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale for DSM-5 (30.2 versus 36.9) at three months. Significantly lower scores were also seen for depression (odds ratio [OR], 0.45), anxiety (OR, 0.25), and most areas of psychosocial functioning (e.g., social isolation: OR, 0.34) in the intervention group.

“Based on standardized self-reported and clinician-assessed symptom severity, service dog partnership may serve as an effective complementary intervention for military service-related PTSD,” the authors write.

One author reported receiving personal fees from Companion.

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