1. This randomized control trial demonstrated that a dog training program significantly improved symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as compared to controls.
2. Emotional and attentional regulation was also improved in the intervention group.
Evidence Rating Level: 2 (Good)
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may have a profound impact on the quality of life of those affected. Treatment often entails a combination of medications and psychotherapy. Complementary treatments, such as exercise interventions, have been demonstrated to improve PTSD recovery. Animal-assisted therapies have shown efficacy in other psychiatric disorders, and may represent another complementary therapy for improving symptoms of PTSD.
The aim of this randomized control trial was to evaluate the impact of a one-year dog-training program on PTSD symptoms. The primary outcome of the trial was Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale DSM V revision (CAPS-CA-5) score. Additionally, Beck Depression Inventory (BDI-II) and Auditory Sustained Attention Test (ASAT) scores were measured. Adolescents were included who had previous exposure to trauma. The main exclusion criterion was the inability to access mental health professionals.
A total of 54 participants enrolled in the trial and were randomized into either a dog training program (n=30) or treatment as usual (n=23). After completion of the dog training program, those in the treatment group had significantly greater improvements in their PTSD symptoms and ASAT scores as compared to controls. Conversely, both groups demonstrated similar improvements in BDI-II scores. However, the major limitation of the study was that follow-up was not conducted after the program was complete. Thus, the long-term impact of dog-training therapy for PTSD could not be elucidated. Nonetheless, this study was significant in suggesting participation in dog training programs may improve PTSD symptoms in conjunction with usual care.
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