The effect of companion dog adoption on loneliness in veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder: An exploratory study

Adler, R. H., Straud, C. L., Peterson, A. L., Jeffreys, M. D., Finley, E. P., Beaver, B. V., Copeland, L. A., Young-McCaughan, S., Seawell, M. D., Bridgeman, C. H., Hamilton, A., Mata-Galan, E. L., Allegretti, A. L. C., Lara-Ruiz, J. M., Allison, S., Donahue, D. A., Martinez, A., & Stern, S. L., for the STRONG STAR Consortium
Feb 15, 2024

Traumatology. Advance online publication.

This exploratory study is a secondary analysis of a pilot randomized trial (N = 19) that examined the impact of companion dog adoption on loneliness in military veterans in treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). We randomized participants to immediate dog adoption fromthe Humane Society (n = 9) or a 3-month waitlist followed by dog adoption (n = 10) as an adjunct to PTSD care. We assessed loneliness using the UCLA-Loneliness Scale and semistructured interviews. Generalized linear mixed-effects regression models with repeated measures demonstrated greater reductions in loneliness following treatment in the dog adoption group compared to the waitlist (Mdiff = -11.18, p = .026; d = -1.20). Qualitative interviews found that participants who adopted a dog reported close bonds of companionship with their pets, increased social interactions, and improved emotional well-being. The findings in this study suggest that companion dog adoption used as an adjunctive treatment may help alleviate loneliness for veterans with PTSD.