DVA’s Psychiatric Assistance Dog Program

Did you know that if you suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), then you may be eligible for a psychiatric assistance dog through DVA?

Canines have been proven to help treat and even prevent several mental disorders, providing physical and psychological benefits. With their presence alone, dogs can:

  • Reduce Stress and Anxiety: Petting or positively interacting with a dog can increase levels of the stress-reducing hormone oxytocin and decrease production of the stress hormone cortisol. It can also reduce anxiety. According to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), pets could reduce anxiety, including social anxiety and separation anxiety.
  • Reduce Depression and Loneliness: Alan Beck, director of the Center for the Human-Animal Bond at Purdue University, told Donna Jackel of Hope to Cope that “All people report feeling less lonely in the presence of animals — even birds. Animals are good for everyone, but particularly for anxious and depressed people. For one thing, pets keep us anchored in the present and distract us from negative or anxious thoughts.”
  • Create Social Opportunities: If you’re experiencing loneliness or social anxiety, or if you want to prevent these issues, having a dog can create social opportunities for you and those around you. In a 2000 study at the University of Warwick in Coventry, England, 65 strangers stopped to speak with someone walking a dog, while only three people stopped to talk to that same person walking alone.
  • Give You a Sense of Purpose: Sometimes all anyone needs to boost their mood is a sense of purpose. By owning a dog, you play an important role in their life by feeding and caring for them. These responsibilities can keep your mind occupied with something constructive and remove any feelings of negativity. If you’ve been feeling dejected and seeking meaning in your life, having a dog can change your circumstances for the better.
  • Lower Your Blood Pressure Levels: In a 2001 study, researchers found that pet-owning patients with high blood pressure managed to keep their blood pressure lower in times of mental stress than patients without pets. Another study found that when people with borderline hypertension adopted dogs from a shelter, their blood pressure declined significantly within five months.
  • Encourages Exercise: People need daily exercise, with at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day, for optimum health. Dogs should also exercise regularly (daily, if possible), as long as their age and health status allows for it. Daily exercise can provide mental and physical benefits for both of you, including improving cardiovascular health and reducing anxiety.

DVA will pay for the supply of a fully trained and registered psychaiatric assistance dog for eligible veterans. You can request reimbursement for the costs associated with maintaining the welfare of the dog, this includes:

  • Annual maintenance costs up to $565 per quarter — yearly vet costs (including vaccinations and medication), pet insurance, and food.
  • Unexpected vet bills and gap payments — in the event the psychiatric assistance dog has an unexpected vet bill, or you are out of pocket due to the difference between the bill and the amount claimable by pet insurance, DVA will reimburse this amount

For more information on eligibility and how to apply visit the DVA website or click here.



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