Ten-plus years of war in the Middle East and Central Asia have resulted in high numbers of veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, most commonly referred to by its innocuous-sounding acronym, PTSD. Veterans’ organizations and Congress have helped direct efforts toward treating this war injury. It deserves all the investment it receives, and more.
Animal therapy, in particular canine therapy, used in treatment of PTSD shows great potential. In 2005, Dr. Joan Esnayra surveyed psychiatric-service dog handlers—patients using service dogs—and found that “82% of the respondents with PTSD reported a decline in symptom manifestation.” The therapy also has been successful in treating depression, a disorder associated with PTSD. Of those patients living with depression and using animal therapy, “54 percent [have found] it ‘extremely’ or ‘quite a bit’ helpful,” according to a 2009 report from the National Alliance on Mental Illness titled Depression: Gaps and Guideposts, discussed by Dr. Rick Nauert on psychcentral.com (“Canine Therapy for Military PTSD,” 9 July 2010).