Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a psychological disorder affecting both humans and animals PTSD in dogs can occur after a traumatic event, just as it does in humans. Signs include a change in behavior such as nervousness, weight loss, and aggression. Shaking, whining, or other sudden changes in behavior may also be apparent. Many dogs returning from war zones have been diagnosed with this disorder, as well as police dogs who have witnessed gunfire or other conflict. Humans with PTSD have the benefit of acquiring an emotional support animal letter for their pets to help with their trauma. But too often we overlook the experience of PTSD in dogs.
Dogs are being used in increased rates in war zones to sniff out bombs and for other duties. After a traumatic event, such as a bomb going off or repeated gunfire, some of these dogs start exhibiting fearful behavior. As in humans suffering from the disorder, PTSD in dogs is thought to cause flash backs of the traumatic event. They will avoid things that remind them of the event. Usually, military dogs with PTSD can no longer work in war zones.
PTSD in dogs is being diagnosed more frequently, as veterinarians are starting to recognize it as a legitimate disorder. Dogs who have been in abusive or neglectful situations are also likely to suffer post traumatic stress disorder. It is being diagnosed more often in dogs rescued by shelters. Pet dogs can also experience post traumatic stress disorder after the loss of a caretaker.
Not all dogs who exhibit signs of PTSD actually have it, as there are medical conditions that can mimic the symptoms. Any dog who has a change in behavior should be seen by a veterinarian to rule out medical causes, even if it has been through a traumatic event. A veterinarian can also recommend tips to deal with behavioral changes, and help find ways for the dog to begin the healing process.
Treatment of PTSD in dogs involves training them to be comfortable again in tense situations. They should have a safe place to hide when feeling stressed and a daily routine, which should have favorite toys or other items the dog uses to soothe itself. People or normal situations, such as going to the veterinarian, that cause stress should be introduced to the dog slowly and encouragingly. Medications are generally not used to treat PTSD in dogs.
Some dogs treated for this disorder have returned to jobs in the military or police force. Many dogs treated at shelters for the disorder have become loving family pets. Since the treatment largely consists of retraining, many dogs can expect to lead normal lives after treatment has ended.