Canines Providing Assistance to Wounded Warriors (C-P.A.W.W.)
Background & Goal
When Cheryl Krause-Parello, PhD, RN, FAAN arrived at the University of Colorado in 2013, there was no dedicated research initiative in the College of Nursing that focused on military veterans despite the large number of veterans and active-duty members and the high rate of veteran suicide across the United States. To address the health needs of veterans, Dr. Krause-Parello founded Canines Providing Assistance to Wounded Warriors (C-P.A.W.W.). C-P.A.W.W. focuses on how nurses and other healthcare providers may use the human-animal bond to provide quality care to veterans and their families across the United States. C-P.A.W.W.’s goal is to comprehensively advance interdisciplinary research, education, and practice protocols for wounded warriors and veterans.
Risk factors related specifically to military service include depression, diminished internal locus of control, lack of resiliency, social disconnectedness and suicidal ideation, among others. An estimated 20 veterans die each day as a result of suicide. Animal-assisted intervention is a non-invasive, low-risk intervention to help alleviate these symptoms. Unlike prior animal-assisted interventions, which were based on subjective accounts and surveys from participants, C-P.A.W.W. employs scientific, objective scales of measurement which demonstrate how veterans benefit from animal presence and interaction. To accomplish its goals, C-P.A.W.W. builds community partnerships and investigates therapeutic canine interventions which positively influence health outcomes. The program emphasizes system planning, public policymaking, and thorough protocols of care development to deliver culturally congruent and competent care to veterans and military members.
Evidence of Success
One of C-P.A.W.W.’s current research projects demonstrates that when veterans with PTSD are provided a service dog, they are able to decrease or stop their psychotropic medications, thereby reducing undesirable side effects associated with these drugs. With the cost of treating PTSD in veterans skyrocketing in the past decade to $24,000 for a five-day inpatient hospitalization and $8500 a year for an average outpatient treatment, the cost to care for a service dog is approximately $4000 per year-80% less than a five-day hospitalization. In addition to significant cost savings, a C-PA.W.W. study which examined the effects of a facility dog on veterans receiving palliative care showed visits with the facility dog had a measurable impact on heart rate and salivary cortisol levels. Similarly, a C-P.A.W.W. study on active duty military being aeromedically evacuated from an air force base in Germany to the United States demonstrates that animal-assisted intervention reduces stress markers, providing non-pharmacological physiologic and psychological support for patients.