A sizeable number of U.S. veterans of all ages experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which can impact their quality of life; physically, mentally and socially. Consequences of PTSD are associated with physical and emotional disabilities, including ideation of self-harm and even suicide. Increasingly, animal-assisted therapies (AAT) are used to treat PTSD and other physical and behavioral conditions in veterans. Over the decades, AATs have used dogs, cats, horses, and dolphins among other animals. The purpose of this integrative review is to examine the use of AAT focusing on canine assisted therapy (CAT) among veterans diagnosed with PTSD. The methodology involved database searches, including MEDLINE, PubMed, PsychInfo, EBSCOhost, along with textbooks and popular media published from 2000 to 2016. Associated with the lack of more recent research, relevant articles published before 2000 were included in the review. Search terms included, ‘veterans,’ ‘service dogs,’ ‘service animals,’ ‘animal-assisted therapy,’ ‘canine therapy,’ ‘PTSD,’ ‘post-traumatic stress disorder,’ ‘psychiatric,’ ‘U.S. veterans,’ ‘equine therapy,’ ‘horse therapy,’ ‘pet therapy,’ and ‘military veterans.’ A total of ten relevant studies were identified which focused on the use of AAT among veterans diagnosed with PTSD. Different populations diagnosed with PTSD and other behavioral and psychiatric health conditions using AAT were examined as well. These articles were read, analyzed, and synthesized. Results of the review offer some support that AAT has psychological, physiological and psychosocial benefits for some populations across the lifespan with various diagnoses. Consistent and conflicting findings along with gaps in the literature are highlighted. Limitations and implications for nursing practice, research, policy and education also are noted in this thesis.

Thesis Completion




Thesis Chair/Advisor

Bushy, Angeline


Bachelor of Science in Nursing (B.S.N.)


College of Nursing




UCF Daytona Beach



Access Status

Open Access

Release Date

August 2017