Exploring service dogs for rehabilitation of veterans with PTSD: A microbiome perspective.

Purpose/Objective: Recently, there has been an increase in the use of therapy animals, often dogs, to assist individuals with challenges associated with managing stressful social situations (i.e., psychological rehabilitation). Potential applications are wide-ranging from elementary schools to airports to hospitals. Here we present an overview of the present knowledge and provide recommendations for future research aimed at exploring the impact of therapy dogs on the rehabilitation of Veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with a focus on the microbiome. Research Method/Design: In this review we searched the literature for studies that were conducted involving Veterans and service dogs. Because of the limited number of studies, we conducted a nonsystematic review to include the topics of the microbiome and psychological mechanisms that may play a role in rehabilitation of Veterans with dogs. Results: Whether dogs can be used as an intervention to increase function among those with PTSD remains a question. Nonetheless, it has been suggested that dog ownership may improve mental health outcomes via multiple mechanisms, such as decreasing social isolation and increasing physical activity and exposure to green spaces. The presence of a dog in the home may alter the human inhabitants’ microbiomes, thereby, potentially providing an additional mechanism through which service dogs may influence human health and well-being. Conclusions/Implications: Theoretically, the use of service dogs for rehabilitation of Veterans with PTSD could improve mental health outcomes. To the best of our knowledge the impact that therapy dogs have on the microbiome of the owners, as well as their built environments, has yet to be explored. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)