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Canine-assisted therapy in military medicine

May 16, 2012 Comments off
Source:  United States Army Medical Department Journal (April-June 2012 issue)
Historically speaking, only relatively recently have the benefits that canines offer to human health and well-being been recognized, formally examined, and applied. Service dogs assisting the blind have been common for several decades, and the use of dogs to assist those with other physical handicaps, for example, the deaf and those with ambulatory limitations, has expanded rapidly as organizations training and supplying such dogs have multiplied. The military healthcare system, as well as that of the Veterans Administration, have also used canines for such purposes as Wounded Warriors are reintegrated into the civilian world. However, the formal use of dogs by military medicine as part of therapy during recovery from both physical and psychological injuries is an even more recent application.

This issue of the AMEDD Journal focuses on that expanding role of dogs in the military healthcare system. COL Bobbi Amaker and COL (Ret) Cam Ritchie have assembled a collection of articles that explore the recognition and acceptance of the value of therapy dogs by both military and civilian healthcare professionals. The articles examine the various capacities in which dogs work among patients in medical facilities. There are also detailed discussions of the fairly recent initiative of deploying specially trained dogs overseas with combat and operational stress control teams to assist in their vitally important work in the mitigation of stress and anxiety among deployed personnel. Interestingly, as described in one article, this role of canine therapy has been applied repeatedly to disasters and tragic events in the United States, beginning with September 11, 2001, to address the confusion, stress, and anxiety of both victims and rescue/recovery workers in dealing with the feelings of futility, frustration, and loss.
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