NIH-Funded Research Project to Evaluate K9s For Warriors Service Dogs For PTSD

Dr. Maggie O’Haire, assistant professor of human-animal interaction in the Department of Comparative Pathobiology, with her dog, Chloe, and Jason Snodgrass, chief operating officer of K9s For Warriors, which is partnering with Dr. O’Haire on a study of the effects of service dogs on veterans with PTSD.

(Ponte Vedra, FL) –Purdue University’s College of Veterinary Medicine has received funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to research the efficacy of K9s For Warriors service dogs in mitigating the effects of PTSD on veterans and their families. The research is being led by Dr. Maggie O’Haire, Assistant Professor of Human-Animal Interaction, of the University’s Center for the Human-Animal
Bond.

The research results are expected to close the knowledge gap between the apparent and proven therapeutic effects of service dogs. This study has been deemed imperative, based on the growing number of veterans experiencing the debilitating effects of PTSD, the depression and anxiety it causes their family members, and the lack of success rates of existing PTSD treatments. The Veterans Administration (VA) has never funded PTSD service dogs, citing insufficient scientific data. This study
aims to resolve that. Currently, the treatment can only be found in small-scale organizations who take it upon themselves to train and provide the canines.

“We are overwhelmingly confident that this research will prove what all of us dedicated to the mission of saving our veterans already know – that service dogs work,” said Rory Diamond, CEO of K9s For Warriors. “Once this scientific data is published, it will help put more leashes into the hands of disabled veterans in the battle against veteran suicide.”

According to O’Haire, although the prevalence of service dogs for PTSD appears to be on the rise, there are no published clinical trials available to validate their efficacy. “Many veterans are increasingly seeking complementary interventions for PTSD, including service dogs,” Dr. O’Haire says. “Yet, even with the well-meaning intentions of service dog organizations that are working to meet the demand, our systematic review of scientific literature confirms a lack of published, empirical research on the effects that service dogs have on veterans and their spouses.”

O’Haire explains that, historically, research in this area has relied on anecdotal evidence and emotion
rather than science. “Without scientifically sound studies that establish proof-of-concept for the
therapeutic efficacy of PTSD service dogs, this animal-assisted intervention strategy will continue to be
minimized as an unsupported and potentially unsound practice, despite anecdotal reports that the dogs
may have a significant impact.”

This study will create a scientific evidence base for the effects of service dogs on veterans with PTSD as
well as their spouses.

O’Haire and her research team hope to learn how service dogs are incorporated into the lives of
veterans and what changes they may confer in terms of PTSD symptomology, social functioning and
physiological biomarkers. They will use standardized survey instruments as well as objective measures
of physiology to track stress and functioning. They also will use a novel ecological momentary
assessment protocol to capture the role and function of the dogs in everyday life.

“This project represents a substantive departure from the status quo by applying rigorous research
methodology to an area that has historically been characterized by a reliance on emotional intuition
rather than evidence-based science,” O’Haire says.

The study is funded by NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human
Development (NICHD) and National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH). The
funding is part of a public-private partnership established in 2008 between NICHD and the WALTHAM

Centre for Pet Nutrition, Mars Petcare’s fundamental science research centre, to establish a human-
animal interaction (HAI) research program to support studies related to child development, health, and the therapeutic inclusion of animals in interventions for individuals with disabilities or those requiring
rehabilitative services.

Merrick Pet Care, a prominent supporter and Strategic Research Partner of K9s For Warriors, is also a
major funder of the study, contributing $250,000 to the project. Merrick has been the exclusive provider
of all food and treats used in the K9s For Warriors training program since 2015. The pet care brand will
continue to expand this partnership through its Hero’s Banquet recipe, now available year-round with a
donation of the item’s proceeds helping to further underwrite research.

To schedule an interview with a K9s For Warriors representative, please contact Tahoma Guiry at tahoma@k9sforwarriors.org, or call (904) 686-1956.

To schedule an interview with Dr. O’Haire, please contact Allison Guffey at lamb32@purdue.edu.

About K9s For Warriors K9s For Warriors is the nation’s largest provider of service dogs to military veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury and/or Military Sexual Trauma as a result of military service post-9/11. Their goal is to give a new leash on life to rescue dogs and military heroes,
empowering warriors to return to civilian life with dignity and independence. Learn more at www.k9sforwarriors.org or visit http://www.facebook.com/k9sforwarriors for regular updates.

About Merrick Pet Care Founded in 1988, Amarillo-based Merrick Pet Care, Inc. is a leader in natural and organic pet food. With a mission to create the most nutritious and wholesome food, Merrick families take better care of their pets by cooking up nutritious real whole foods for pets. All recipes are cooked in the USA using only the freshest ingredients grown by local farmers and no ingredients from China. The company offers a wide variety of dry and wet foods, as well as treats, that are available nationally at independent pet specialty
stores, Petco, and online via select retailers. For more information, visit www.merrickpetcare.com.

About the WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition 

The WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition is the fundamental science centre for Mars Petcare and focuses
on the nutrition and wellbeing of dogs, cats, horses, birds and fish, and their benefits to humans.
Located in Leicestershire, England, WALTHAMTM expertise and knowledge informs the development of
innovative products that meet the needs of companion animals in a practical way. The centre recently
celebrated its half century and has pioneered many important breakthroughs in the field, publishing
over 600 peer-reviewed scientific papers. Today, WALTHAM continues to collaborate with the world’s
foremost scientific institutes, driving Mars Petcare’s vision to create ‘A Better World for Pets’ and
delivering the science that underpins leading Mars brands such as PEDIGREE®, WHISKAS®, ROYAL
CANIN®, BANFIELD Pet Hospital, IAMS®, PERFECT FIT®, CESAR®, NUTRO®, SHEBA®, DREAMIES® and
EUKANUBA®. www.waltham.com

About the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine
The Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine pursues the advancement of global animal and
human health and well-being through excellence in learning, discovery and engagement while serving as
a major referral center for the diagnosis and treatment of animal diseases. Faculty research both animal
and human health, with an emphasis on animal welfare science and the human-animal bond; infectious
diseases and immunology; cancer; neuroscience; and musculoskeletal biology and orthopedics. The
college is home to the Center for the Human Animal Bond (http://vet.purdue.edu/chab/index.php),
which seeks to expand knowledge of the interrelationships between people, animals, and their
environment. A key component of the center is the Organization for Human-Animal Interaction
Research (OHAIRE) (http://vet.purdue.edu/chab/ohaire/)– a research group led by Dr. Maggie O’Haire
that includes national and international collaborators, students, and community members working
together to conduct rigorous, scientific research on the unique and pervasive effects of interacting with
animals. For more information about Purdue Veterinary Medicine visit www.vet.purdue.edu.

Info from Specific Aims, Dr. O’Haire, and https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/animals-
presence-may-ease-social-anxiety-kids-autism

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