(BPT) - According to the National Institutes of Health, up to 30% of American military veterans experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after returning home from combat. Yet only about 40% of those individuals ever seek help.
Service dogs are proving to help military veterans suffering from PTSD and other post-combat challenges in ways that no other therapy can. Unfortunately, due to the cost and time it takes to train a service dog, less than 1% of those in need can obtain one. Dog Chow is on a mission to help change that with its Service Dog Salute campaign, which supports the care and training of more service dogs for America’s military veterans.
If you’re looking for ways to support veterans in your community and across the country, here are four ways you can help.
1. Get informed.
Receiving a service dog can be life-changing for veterans. More than just companions, psychiatric service dogs are specially trained to help veterans live an improved quality of life. They can help ease stress and soothe anxiety through specific tasks like interrupting night terrors, calming panic attacks, reminding a veteran to take medication, providing security and more.
In fact, veterans who utilize service dogs report lower levels of depression and anxiety, fewer hospitalizations and a reduction in medical and psychiatric costs, among other benefits. This is particularly beneficial for those who struggle with PTSD.
Contrary to what many believe, PTSD service dogs are not the same as emotional support, therapy or companion dogs. Like service dogs for the blind, deaf and physically disabled, PTSD service dogs for veterans must be specifically trained to help their handler perform tasks they cannot otherwise perform on their own.
2. Buy a bag of Purina Dog Chow
Through its Service Dog Salute program, Purina Dog Chow is supporting the care and training of more service dogs for veterans, so that every military hero in need can find a canine hero of their own. From Sept. 1, 2020, through Thanksgiving (Nov. 26, 2020), for every purchase of a specially marked bag of Purina Dog Chow, Purina will make a donation to its two partnering service dog organizations (up to a total of $100,000). The donations will be split equally between the Pets & Vets program at Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation and Got Your Six Support Dogs.
Over the last three years, Purina Dog Chow has donated over $700,000 to support the training of service dogs for military veterans. If you or a veteran you know could benefit from a service dog, or to learn more, visit DogChow.com/service.
3. Support veteran service dog organizations
It takes on average between one and two and a half years and $25,000 to train and place one service dog. These costs include specialized training, food, veterinarian services, veteran therapy expenses and more. Especially now, as fundraisers and other events continue to be cancelled, non-profit organizations that serve our nation’s veterans need help more than ever. Donating directly to your local nonprofits will help them continue their missions to help these men and women regain their lives through the healing power of dogs.
4. Support legislation
Men and women returning from service suffer from invisible as well as physical wounds. Congress can give veterans the opportunity to utilize the treatments that work best for them. The PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act (HR4305) will create a pilot program in the VA to give veterans access to treatment derived from working with service dogs. The bill would change the existing Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) policy to recognize service dogs as a treatment option for PTSD, as well as create a program within the VA allowing veterans to train service dogs for their personal use or for other veterans facing physical disabilities.
The bill has been approved by the House, but still awaits passage in the Senate. To support this legislation, visit dogchow.com/service to send an email to your state senators urging them to pass the bill.