Mental disorders can be treated with medication, meditation, psychotherapy…and now dogs reports CNN online. Dogs have been used as companion and service animals for decades. Not only can they lead the visually challenged, but they can also sense oncoming seizures and low blood sugar in diabetics. And it seems that companion animals are especially effective at soothing and helping rehabilitate people with mental health problems, especially PTSD.


“In a way, we could all use a psychiatric service or therapy dog because of the incredible amount of stress that we’re all under,” says psychiatrist Dr. Carole Lieberman, author of “Coping With Terrorism: Dreams Interrupted.” Being around an animal can cause biochemical changes in our brains that make us feel calmer, safer and happier. In addition, caring for a pet can help take our thoughts off our own fears. “[When you] prove to yourself that you can take care of another living creature,” Dr. Lieberman says, “It “reassures you that you can take care of yourself.” This makes pet therapy especially useful for men and women coping with trauma such as returning veterans, who are relearning how to live in the civilian world.


While any pup can provide soothing happiness to its owner, psychiatric or mental health service dogs extensively trained from puppies to help mentally disabled people. These dogs are given access to planes, restaurants, and housing where animals aren’t usually allowed. Dogs need to be selected, trained and paired off with their owners very carefully as there’s a chance that a dog placed with an anxious, depressive person may become anxious and depressive itself. And, unfortunately, there are people out there who abuse the system with fake pet therapy licenses.


But for people in need, pet therapy can be a lifesaver. If you want to learn more, check out Heeling Allies and the Psychiatric Service Dog Society. Veterans may be eligible for pet therapy through Project Heal, part of ECAD.
Three cheers for our beautiful companions, our wonderful dogs! They deserve the best care for all they do for us.

Pet therapy