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Study: Service dogs lower severity of PTSD symptoms

The first National Institutes of Health-funded clinical trial of its kind links the pairing of service dogs with military veterans to lowered PTSD severity, diagnosis odds, and other negative mental health symptoms. Photo credit: K9s For Warriors

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The first National Institutes of Health-funded clinical trial of its kind, published in JAMA Network, links the pairing of service dogs with military veterans to lowered PTSD severity, diagnosis odds, and other negative mental health symptoms. The study, released in time for National PTSD Awareness Month in June, is also the largest national study to date comparing veterans and service dog teams to usual care alone for PTSD-afflicted veterans.  

Led by Dr. Maggie O'Haire from the University of Arizona College of Veterinary Medicine in partnership with K9s For Warriors, the study examined more than 150 military veterans over three months through self-reported symptoms and expert clinician assessment. The study analyzed measurable PTSD symptoms, as well as psychosocial functioning.

The results revealed that veterans with service dogs had 66% lower odds of a PTSD diagnosis based on expert clinician assessment when compared to a wait-listed control group. Veterans also experienced lower anxiety and depression levels and improvements in most areas of emotional and social well-being.

"This research reinforces what we have been studying for almost a decade - that service dogs are linked to significant benefits for many veterans suffering from PTSD and other invisible wounds of war," said Dr. O'Haire, associate dean for Research and professor at the University of Arizona College of Veterinary Medicine, where she runs the OHAIRE Lab. "Service dogs are more than pets - they can be essential partners in helping veterans readjust and thrive after they return from service."

The study is the first such study to utilize gold-standard, blinded clinician ratings of PTSD to measure outcomes.

About K9s For Warriors

K9s For Warriors is the nation's largest provider of trained service dogs to military veterans suffering from invisible wounds of war. The national non-profit pairs highly trained service dogs with veterans suffering from PTSD, traumatic brain injury, and/or military sexual trauma - all at no cost to the veteran.

K9s For Warriors has paired more than 1,000 veterans with service dogs, saving countless veteran and rescue dog lives. The K9s For Warriors program is backed by scientific research, with the most recent study being published in JAMA Network on June 4, 2024.

With the majority of dogs being rescues, this innovative program allows the K9/Warrior team to build an unwavering bond that facilitates their collective healing and recovery. To learn more about K9s For Warriors, visit

Editor's note: This story was published by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

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