A new research by MORE TH>N Pet Insurance,77% of the pet owners say their animals have made their life better. Participants agreed with the fact that pets provide more emotional support as compared to family and friends.
Mental health is as important as physical health. If you’re mentally ill, you can’t focus on work and live happily with your loved ones.
Living with pets such as dogs, cats, etc. can help you relieve stress, anxiety, and depression. Even, patients with PTSD can benefit from animal-assisted therapy. What exactly PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) is? But, how does it work? What do researches say & what’s the process for emotional support animal registration? Let’s discuss.
PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) is a mental illness that occurs following a traumatic event. It can be a natural disaster, death of a loved one, rape activity, serious injury, etc.
The common symptoms of patients suffering from PTSD are-
- Reliving memories of the traumatic event
- Nightmares about the event
- Avoiding places that remind about the event
- Lack of interest in activities
- Relationship problems
- Negative thoughts
- Trouble memorizing things
- Trouble sleeping at night
- Concentration problems
- Irritability and aggressive behavior
About 3.5% of the population in the United States (approximately 8 million Americans) suffer from PTSD in a given year. The condition is common among military veterans because they are more exposed to traumatic events.
How Can Dogs Help PTSD Patients
Spending time with a dog can help you feel happy, thus boosting focus and relieving stress. The pet therapy is highly effective for patients with PTSD. The therapy is helpful in managing various symptoms such as anxiety, depression, flashbacks, nightmares, etc.
Here are the major reasons why PTSD patients should go for animal-assisted therapy over traditional treatments-
Improve Activity Levels
If you have a dog, you have to go out of the home for exercising it. This makes you more active and meets new people in your city. As a result, you will be able to fight social anxiety and depression. People feel like opening up more with pet owners than those who don’t own pets. Thus, getting out with your dog is a perfect way to talk to others, thus getting off your hesitation to talk to strangers. The more you talk to people, the better you feel.
Your dog provides you company when going out for exercising and sleeping. Actually, it makes you feel safe and protected. Researchers have confirmed that emotional support animals can help their owners sleep better, thus reducing nightmares, anxiety, and flashbacks.
Dogs provide ultimate love and comfort to help PTSD patients reduce stress levels and increase energy levels. Most of the PTSD patients have trouble managing their symptoms, which may interfere with their relationships and perform their daily tasks. Don’t worry if you have a bad day in the office, your dog is always available for you.
Adjust to Civilian Life
Emotional support animals can help veterans to transition back to their civilian lives. The veterans can take their ESAs anywhere and get support in managing their daily activities. Dogs have many skills such as waking vets from nightmares, stopping panic attacks, controlling flashbacks, etc.
What Studies Have to Say?
- Researchers have found that living with dogs provides biological effects. It helps in increasing the oxytocin levels. Oxytocin is a hormone, which plays an important role in social bonding. Meg Daley Olmert of Baltimore, who works for Warrier Canine Connection said, “Oxytocin improves trust, the ability to interpret facial expressions, the overcoming of paranoia and other pro-social effects—the opposite of PTSD symptoms.”
- A 2001 study found that participants who owned pets had lower blood pressure levels and heart rates. Additionally, they performed better in physical stress and psychological tests & recovered quickly.
- In 2018, a study confirmed that interacting with a therapy dog after a triggering film clip reported less negative affect, lower anxiety, and more positive effects.
- A recent study found that military veterans with service dogs produced more cortisol in the morning than those without dogs. Additionally, dog owners were reported having less anger, anxiety and better sleep.
ESA vs PTSD Medications
When it comes to PTSD treatment, patients usually consider traditional treatments such as medications. Common medications for treating PTSD are-
- SSRIs- Sertraline (Zoloft), Paroxetine (Paxil), and Fluoxetine (Prozac)
- Atypical antipsychotics and the anti-hypertensive alpha-blocker prazosin
Although these medications can help in reducing PTSD symptoms, they can cause various side-effects-
- Sexual dysfunction
Contrary to that, pet therapy is a natural treatment for PTSD. There’s no harm spending time with an emotional support animal and receiving love and affection for managing your condition.
Emotional Support Animal Registration - The Complete Process
For emotional support animal registration, you need to see a mental health professional such as a psychotherapist, psychologist, or any licensed therapist. The professional will analyze your condition, and if you’re approved, you will provide you an ESA letter on the official letterhead.
An ESA letter allows you to fly & live with your support animal without paying any extra pet deposits/fees.
Read Also- Everything You Need to Know About ESA Laws
With telemedicine services, getting an emotional support animal has become very easy. Here’s the process-
- Sign up an account online
- Talk to a licensed therapist through a HIPAA-compliant software
- Receive your ESA letter in PDF format through the email
After you registered your dog an ESA, make sure you buy an emotional support animal vest for it. Although the vests aren’t necessary by law, they can help your ESA get easily identified in the public.
Click here to buy a special ESA vest for your dog.
Top Dog Breeds For Patients With PTSD
When it comes to managing PTSD symptoms, choosing the right dog breed is important. Here’s a list of the best PTSD dog breeds-
The most popular dog breed for PTSD sufferers. This dog breed has an eagerness to please people by providing love and comfort. It can help in controlling flashbacks, providing support for fetching medications, and other tasks.
You can make this dog an amazing therapy dog with proper training. They like meeting strangers and when you’re sad, they will always stay with you.
They are highly trainable dogs suitable for all psychiatric assistance jobs. They can be easily trained to analyze the signs of flashbacks and provide support to cope with other PTSD symptoms.
They are smart, calm dogs that provide excellent psychiatric assistance. They have plenty of energy and can perform different tasks. They quickly alert their owners to situations that require immediate attention.
They are obedient dogs with affectionate nature. They can be trained for different tasks. Boxers can provide the ultimate relief from PTSD symptoms with their calm behavior and ultimate love.
PTSD is a mental health condition that involves flashbacks and reliving memories of a traumatic event. This condition is common among military veterans returning from war. Researchers have found that animal-assisted therapy can be used as an alternative treatment to medications and other traditional PTSD treatments. Pets provide ultimate love and comfort, helping the patients reduce stress, anxiety & negative thoughts while increasing energy levels and boosting focus.
Choosing the right dog breed when managing PTSD symptoms is important. Some of the best PTSD dog breeds are Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, Boxer, Standard Poodle, and Lhasa Apso.
Want to legally register your emotional support dog? See a licensed therapist today!