Can Pet Ownership Positively Affect the Recovery of Individuals with PTSD?

March 8, 2024

As you may know, pets have an uncanny ability to bring joy and comfort into our lives. Many individuals find solace in the company of their furry companions, whether they’re playing fetch in the park or simply relaxing at home. But can this bond with animals extend beyond just companionship? Specifically, can pet ownership positively influence the recovery of individuals with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)? Let’s delve into some recent studies that shed light on this topic.

The Benefits of Pet Ownership on Mental Health

Before examining the specific impact of pet ownership on PTSD, it is worth highlighting the general benefits that pet ownership can have on mental health. Pet ownership can provide a sense of purpose and improve overall well-being, as well as reduce feelings of loneliness and stress.

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One such study from Google Scholar conducted by researchers at the University of Manchester found that pet ownership could help individuals manage long-term mental health conditions. The study revealed that the physical presence of pets, their ability to distract from symptoms, and their capacity to respond to changes in their owner’s emotional state were crucial in managing mental health.

Pets and PTSD: The Evidence

Turning our attention to PTSD, several studies have suggested a positive correlation between pet ownership and recovery from this serious mental health condition.

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Veterans with PTSD have been the focus of numerous studies. A 2017 crossref study found that veterans who owned a dog reported lower levels of depression, PTSD symptoms, and suicidal ideation. The findings suggested that dog ownership could be a valuable addition to current treatment strategies for veterans with PTSD.

Another study found that veterans who trained their service dogs experienced reduced PTSD symptoms, better interpersonal relationships, and improved mental health. Importantly, this study underscores the value of the human-animal connection and the potential for therapeutic interventions involving animals.

Dogs: Man’s Best Therapist?

So why dogs? It seems there’s something unique about canines that resonates with humans on a deep, emotional level. Studies have shown that the presence of a dog can lower stress hormones, release feel-good chemicals in the brain, and even improve cardiovascular health.

Additionally, specific traits inherent in dogs, such as their unconditional love and non-judgmental nature, make them particularly effective in fostering an atmosphere of safety and security. This environment can be extremely beneficial for individuals grappling with PTSD, as it allows them to gradually rebuild their capacity to trust and connect with others.

How Pets Facilitate Recovery from PTSD

The impact of pets on the mental health of their owners extends beyond the immediate comfort they provide. Pets, and particularly dogs, can also play an instrumental role in facilitating their owner’s recovery from PTSD. They provide a sense of safety, predictability, and non-judgmental support that is incredibly valuable to those dealing with trauma.

One aspect of this is the steady routine that pet care involves. Feeding, grooming, and walking a pet can provide a sense of structure and purpose that is often lacking in the lives of those struggling with PTSD. Regular interaction with a pet can also encourage mindfulness, reducing anxiety and helping individuals stay grounded in the present moment.

In conclusion, while owning a pet is not a substitute for professional mental health treatment, the evidence strongly suggests that pet ownership can have several positive effects on the mental health of individuals with PTSD. These benefits range from reducing symptoms of depression and stress, to fostering a sense of safety and routine. The bond between humans and animals is indeed a powerful one, and its therapeutic potential is only beginning to be understood.

The Human-Animal Bond: A Quality Life Enhancer

The human-animal bond is a unique relationship between people and their pets. This bond is often characterized by mutual affection and companionship. There is an increased interest in the scientific community to understand this bond and its potential therapeutic benefits, especially in the context of mental illness.

In a study found on Google Scholar, researchers have highlighted that this human-animal bond is associated with various positive outcomes in the mental health of pet owners. These outcomes include reduced depressive symptoms, improved quality of life, and increased social interactions. The study further reported that the bond with pets provides emotional support to the pet owners, helping them better deal with stress and anxiety.

Another study published in doi crossref identified the physiological changes that occur during human-animal interactions. The researchers found that spending time with pets can lead to lower blood pressure, slower heart rate, and reduced stress hormones. These physiological changes can also contribute to the therapeutic benefits of pet ownership.

Moreover, the human-animal bond can be particularly beneficial for individuals suffering from serious mental conditions like PTSD. The routine of caring for a pet, as well as the love and companionship they offer, can provide a sense of normalcy and stability in the otherwise turbulent lives of individuals dealing with trauma.

Animal Assisted Therapy: A Growing Field in Mental Health

Animal-assisted therapy is a growing field that involves the use of animals, especially dogs, in therapeutic settings. The goal of this therapy is to improve the mental, physical, and emotional well-being of individuals.

Studies on Google Scholar have suggested that animal-assisted therapy can be an effective intervention for a range of mental illnesses, including PTSD. Specifically, the studies have shown that interaction with dogs can significantly reduce the symptoms of stress disorder, enhance mood, and improve overall quality of life.

One study found that veterans with PTSD who participated in dog-assisted therapy sessions showed significant improvements in their symptoms, compared to those who did not. The veterans reported less anxiety, less depression, and improved social functioning. The researchers concluded that dog-assisted therapy can be a valuable adjunct to traditional mental health treatments for veterans with PTSD.

In addition to dog-assisted therapy, owning a pet can also provide similar benefits. Being a pet owner can help people with PTSD feel more secure, manage their emotions better, and improve their interpersonal relationships.


In summary, pet ownership and the human-animal bond are associated with significant benefits for individuals struggling with mental health issues, including PTSD. The love, companionship, and sense of purpose pets provide can help their owners better manage symptoms, improve their quality of life, and even enhance their social interactions. It is also worth noting that while pet ownership can be extremely beneficial, it should not replace professional mental health treatment. However, it can serve as a useful supplement to traditional therapies.

From the physiological changes that occur during pet interactions to the structured routine that comes with pet care, it’s clear that our furry friends can play a significant role in promoting mental health and aiding recovery from trauma. Although more research is needed to fully understand the complexities of the human-animal bond and its therapeutic potential, the current evidence highlights the profound impact of pets on the lives of those battling mental illness. Therefore, pet ownership deserves more attention and recognition in the realm of mental health recovery strategies.