Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is impossible to understand for those who have never had to deal with significant trauma. The psychological and physical aspects of PTSD cannot be overstated and still aren’t fully understood by doctors or psychologists.
One of the best ways to cope with PTSD is with a support dog. Support dogs can help with PTSD in many ways, emotionally and physically. Understanding your specific need will help you know what needs a support dog can help fill.
Emotional Support Dogs and Service Dogs Are Not The Same
The term “service dog” is somewhat abused these days. According to ADA guidelines, there are specific traits necessary to call an animal a service dog. There are no such guidelines for emotional support animals.
Service dogs are trained to complete specific tasks to help their owners overcome a disability. Real service dogs are typically more beneficial to disabled veterans who have additional disabilities such as hearing or vision loss in addition to PTSD symptoms.
Some tasks can be beneficial enough to justify a service dog for veterans with PTSD. Service dogs may be trained to retrieve medicine on command or lay on top of their owner to comfort during a panic attack.
The major drawback to utilizing a service dog for PTSD is the training. There are some significant problems for most veterans getting a service dog, all of which are connected to the training process.
The first issue you may encounter when getting a service dog is the cost. While there are charities that will provide training for free or reduced costs, there is generally a waiting list, and often priority is given to vets with concurrent disabilities.
The second drawback to training a service dog is time. Unless you can find an organization that is proactively training dogs before applying, you will likely be waiting for some time for your dog.
The last drawback to a certified service dog has to do with temperaments and training. While mixed breed dogs make excellent pets, the specific training requirements necessitate certain breeds, so they know what results to expect. Requiring a purebred dog just adds another layer of cost to an already slow process.
For many veterans, an emotional support animal is a better option. Emotional support animals typically go through some degree of obedience training, but there is no formal guideline for what that means.
Since emotional support animals are unregulated, they also are not protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (although many places will treat them as if they are, there is no guarantee).
The benefit is that you can adopt a dog today and start training it to be available when you need it for support.
If you need a dog that can complete specific tasks or you are unable to go without your support animal for any period throughout the day, it may be worth your while to invest in a service dog.
Though the VA does not provide service dogs for veterans, with approval, you can get assistance with vetting fees, prescription medicine, and some dental services, as well as necessary packs and bags.
VA benefits do not cover pet ownership’s standard costs, including food, bedding, et cetera.
In summary, if you feel you could benefit from having a service dog, check VA guidelines. If you think your disability meets the standards for assistance, apply. You will still be responsible for the costs associated with acquiring your service animal, but the VA can help with the remaining costs.