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Why Service Dogs for Veterans With Anxiety Help So Much

Veterans face many traumatic experiences during their service.

When they come back home, Veterans can have difficulty readjusting to everyday life. Since they spent so much time away from home, focused on particular tasks, everything can be overwhelming upon return.

Many Veterans of armed forces operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, and other U.S. military campaigns also suffer from mental health issues when they come back from service, whether PTSD, anxiety, or depression. Veterans need to find treatment for their mental health disorders to heal over time.

Trained service dogs offer excellent treatment for Veterans who suffer from anxiety or other mental health disorders.

Service Dogs for PTSD Veterans: What You Need to Know

Trained service dogs offer excellent treatment for Veterans who suffer from anxiety or other mental health disorders.

Key Takeaways:

  • You’ll understand why military Veterans suffer from anxiety
  • You’ll learn why Assistance Dogs International-accredited service dogs are helpful for mental health issues
  • You’ll know which breed for a psychiatric service dog is best
  • You’ll learn how to get VA benefits with service animals

Why Veterans Are at Risk of Mental Health Disorders

Military service can make Veterans face unforgettable experiences. Many are left with mental and physical disabilities. War places people in situations they would have never thought they would be in.

When Veterans go through traumatic experiences, they are at risk of developing mental illness. Mental illness comes in many forms, such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and depression.

The symptoms may not immediately begin after the traumatic event. It could take years before a Veteran is aware that they are suffering from mental health symptoms. 

If these symptoms are not treated, they can develop into something worse over time. Anxiety, for example, can develop into PTSD or panic disorders if not treated.

It is crucial that Veterans experiencing symptoms reflective of mental illness seek help immediately. Neglect of symptoms can make them get worse over time.

Veterans can treat their mental illness in many ways. The normal routes of treatment for mental illness are usually either medication, therapy, or a combination of both.

What Do Service Dogs Do for PTSD?

Service animals should not be seen as a form of treatment but rather as a supplement to ongoing treatments for PTSD. Service animals cannot heal mental illness — a PTSD service dog cannot be your only treatment strategy for PTSD symptoms, for example.

Rather, an animal that goes through an accredited service dog training program can help alleviate some of the symptoms a Veteran is still struggling with while they go through their treatment.

Why Service Animals Help

It is common for people who struggle with mental health to have a service animal. These days, the tasks and roles of service animals are much broader than they once were. There are three classifications for service animals:

  1. Service animals
  2. Emotional support animals — often referred to as emotional support dogs
  3. Therapy animals

A variety of animals can be trained as service animals. People have trained pigs, cats, birds, and even horses to function as support animals to help increase the well-being of disabled individuals; the human-animal connection is possible with a wide array of creatures.

Support animals are trained to perform various tasks for their carer’s needs. The need for support animals has increased over the years, and animals for Veterans are no exception. Support animals can play various roles in the lives of Veterans. Some service dog tasks include:

  • Assisting with mobility issues
  • Assisting with visual impairment (guide dogs)
  • Providing comfort in the event of a flashback of panic attack
  • Alerting others in the event of an emergency
  • Providing emotional support and a sense of security

This is only a partial list of the ways that a trained service animal can be of immense aid to Veterans and their families. Many also find that the assistance of a companion animal empowers Veterans who may otherwise find it more challenging to live alone or with the same degree of independence as they would otherwise.

What Should Veterans Know About Service Animals?

Veterans should know a few things about service animals before acquiring one.

A service animal’s status will determine whether a Veteran can have one in various housing situations. For example, only service animals and emotional support animals are exceptions to pet policies because of the Fair Housing Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Therapy animals, on the other hand, are not. If a Veteran has a therapy animal, they will not be able to override pet policies at certain apartment complexes or condominiums.

Service animals should not be viewed as pets. Rather, they are working animals with a specific task — to aid their carer.

Some people have a service animal that functions as a pet when they need no assistance. However, in the moments when a service animal is wearing their vest, others should respect it and not interfere with its tasks.

Although a variety of animals can be trained for service, dogs are the most common support animals. Why is this the case if so many other animals are capable?

Why Do Dogs Make Good Service Animals?

Dogs are the most common service animals used to perform various tasks. They tend to have lots of energy to help their carer over an extended period, and they make wonderful companions to those who require service animals. Some dogs are bred specifically to be service animals. 

Dogs can also perform many functions that some animals do not have the capacity for, thanks to their size, intelligence, and acute sensory awareness. Service dogs for Veterans with PTSD may be keenly aware of subtle changes to the environment even before the Veteran themself.

What Breed of Service Dogs Are Best?

When a Veteran seeks to find a service dog to aid with their anxiety or PTSD, they must pick the proper breed. The right dog can help with recovery from military sexual trauma, depression, and other common mental health issues that affect service members.

Certain breeds make better service animals than others. Some of these breeds have a long pedigree of being trained to be service animals.

Here is a list of common breeds for service dogs:

  • Golden retriever
  • Labrador retriever
  • German shepherd
  • Collies
  • St. Bernards
  • Cocker spaniels

Different canine companions are better at performing various tasks, and they differ in size. If a Veteran wants a larger dog, they may choose a St. Bernard or a golden retriever. But if they do not have the space for a big dog, they could get a collie or a cocker spaniel.

Temperament is another factor to consider. Some breeds, such as the golden retriever, will be much more active than a St. Bernard. Depending on what a Veteran wants in a dog, they may prefer a calmer breed.

Certain breeds are also disposed to more health problems than others. A Veteran must have a service dog that will be able to serve them for a prolonged period of time. Therefore, they should know some of the common health problems in certain breeds.

For example, larger breeds have a higher chance of hip dysplasia or congenital heart disease. The symptoms of these health problems, such as hip dysplasia, can include inflammation and pain in the joints. This pain can make a dog unwilling to move, disrupting their job as a service dog. 

Overall, a Veteran needs to consider all of their options when selecting a dog breed. Some are better for certain Veterans than others.

Does the VA Give Benefits for Service Animals?

The Department of Veterans Affairs does not provide service animals for Veterans but will help cover some of the costs with benefits after confirming eligibility. You will need to enroll with an accredited service dog organization to get a service dog.

Here are a few examples of the health care and everyday expenses that the VA will help cover:

  • Vaccinations
  • Vet expenses
  • Necessary equipment
  • Medications 

Veterans who struggle with PTSD or another mental illness can be eligible for a service dog. Many who struggle with mental illness may just have an emotional support animal, but it is still possible to have an animal classified as a service animal.This is important because the symptoms of PTSD or mental illness are not insignificant. To receive benefits for PTSD, contact Berry Law, where we can help guide you through the claims process.

Conclusion

Veterans who struggle with anxiety or PTSD can find great comfort in enrolling in a service dog program. They help with many different functions and can help alleviate some of the symptoms that many Veterans struggle with.

Different dogs are better than others when it comes to choosing a service animal. A Veteran should think through their needs and wants when choosing which breed to have as a service animal.

If you have any questions or are wondering about VA benefits, the application process, and the compensation you are eligible for, visit our website or contact us for more information. 

Sources:

Mental Health | VA

Selecting Quality Service Dogs | PMC

Service Animals | DAV

Veterans with PTSD and service dogs | VA Claims Insider

Home | K9s For Warriors

Berry Law

The attorneys at Berry Law are dedicated to helping injured Veterans. With extensive experience working with VA disability claims, Berry Law can help you with your disability appeals.

This material is for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between the Firm and the reader, and does not constitute legal advice. Legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and the contents of this blog are not a substitute for legal counsel.

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