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Assistance dogs for military veterans with PTSD: A systematic review, meta-analysis, and meta-synthesis

By S. C. Leighton, L. O. Nieforth, M. E. O'Haire

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Psychiatric assistance dogs for military veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) currently make up over 19% of assistance dog partnerships globally. We conducted a systematic review of the literature relating to these partnerships, with specific aims to (1) summarize their characteristics, (2) evaluate the quality of existing evidence, and (3) summarize outcomes. A total of 432 records were independently screened (Cohen's kappa = 0.90). Of these, 41 articles (29 peer-reviewed publications and 12 unpublished dissertations) met inclusion criteria. Data extraction was conducted to address the research aims, including a meta-analysis (quantitative outcomes) and meta-synthesis (qualitative outcomes). All peer-reviewed publications on the topic of psychiatric assistance dogs for veterans with PTSD were published within the last five years. The majority of included articles were quantitative (53%), 41% were qualitative, and 6% employed mixed methods. Mean methodological rigor scores were 80% for peer reviewed articles and 71% for dissertations, where higher scores represent more rigorous methodology. Quantitative articles reported significant improvements in the domains of PTSD severity, mental health, and social health. Impacts on physical health and global quality of life appear inconclusive. Meta-analysis (9 articles) revealed that partnership with an assistance dog had a clinically meaningful, significant, and large effect on PTSD severity scores (g = -1.129; p

Publication Title PLoS One
Volume 17
Issue 9
Pages e0274960
ISBN/ISSN 1932-6203
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0274960
Author Address Center for the Human-Animal Bond, Department of Comparative Pathobiology, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, United States of America.College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Arizona, Oro Valley, AZ, United States of America.
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animals
  2. Dogs
  3. Humans
  4. Mental health and well-being
  5. open access
  6. Psychiatry and psychology
  7. Quality of life
  8. Service animals
  9. Stress
  1. open access