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Can Dogs Have PTSD?


Can dogs have PTSD? Are all dogs susceptible to having PTSD? Can dogs have PTSD from abuse? Are military working dogs are the only dogs that are susceptible to having PTSD? Well, we are going to answer all of these questions and more about PTSD in this article.

The PTSD, or the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, is severe anxiety that results from experiencing an extremely traumatic and heart-breaking event such as death, accidents, extremely shocking loud noises, and wars. That’s why military working dogs are more likely to suffer from PTSD, but any other dog can have it, too.

Can Dogs Have PTSD?

According to the chief of behavioral medicine and military working-dog studies at Lackland, Walter Burghardt Jr., at least 10 % of military working dogs suffer from canine PTSD, which awful, yet true. However, does this mean that only military working dogs are susceptible to having PTSD? No, any dog that experienced any extremely traumatic event in his/her life is susceptible to having PTSD.

Symptoms of PTSD in dogs:

  • Peeing or pooping in unusual places. We also have mentioned in a previous article that dogs can start eating their own poop out of fear.
  • Howling, barking, and whining.
  • Hiding.
  • Avoiding going to certain places.
  • Panting heavily.
  • Aggressive behavior.
  • Unwarranted stress reaction.
  • Clinging to their own owners.
  • Depression.
  • Stressed body language like:(Tail down or between his/her legs, His/her ears are back and dilated pupils). Also, you might start noticing that your dog’s lip is quivering, so don’t panic.

In what age can dogs get PTSD?

Dogs can get PTSD at any age. In fact, even little pups can get PTSD if they experienced a traumatic experience like a car accident, gunshots, explosions, abuse or any other form of trauma.

Therefore, you need to make sure that you are raising a healthy dog in a healthy environment, and that you will do whatever you can to save him from going through any bad experience that can cause him a very bad PTSD in such a young age.

Can Dogs Have PTSD?

Causes of PTSD in dogs:

  • Accidents
  • Abuse
  • Attacks (from other animals or human beings)
  • Gunshots
  • Military and police missions

Treatment of PTSD in dogs:

According to the AKC-American Kennel Club, The treatment for dogs with PTSD includes medical treatments and behavioral treatments. The most commonly prescribed medication given to these poor dogs with PTSD is anti-anxiety medications, which are prescribed by the dog’s veterinarian.

After your dogs get the medicine he/she needs, he/she will have to go through the behavioral treatment program to solve the problem and make your dog feel better.

A worth mentioning note is that the behavioral treatment program includes exposing the dog with PTSD to the reason of the problem that causes him/her PTSD in the first place, and gradually increasing the exposure and see the reactions of the dog.

Can Dogs Have PTSD?

So, if what caused the problem, in the first place, was noise, the behavioral treatment program will start presenting the noise while your dog is here, but at a very low level, then he/she will gradually raise the volume of the noise up, and he will keep repeating this process till your dog become more comfortable, by the time, to hearing these noise in a higher volume levels without panicking.

In addition to the behavioral program treatment, this process needs to be repeated, this is not just a one day process. Therefore, the process may take time, so you need to be patient and help your dog feel better.

Also, know that your dog will be able to have exercise and play therapy sessions, which will help them relax, gain the veterinarian trust, and improve his/her overall mood to be able to accept the treatment process faster and more effectively.

All of these steps are the recovery process that your poor dog will need to get over his PTSD problem and feel better. Yes, things can take time, but everything will be better and your dog will feel better by the end of the recovery process, and that what really matters.

Can Dogs Have PTSD?

What can you do for your dog if he/she has PTSD?

Well, it is very important to know that when dogs have PTSD, they are not like kids. In other words, you can’t calm your dog down by telling him/her that everything is going to be just fine, and that is nothing is wrong, or by putting him/her into your lap and comfort him/her.

Because, by doing this, you are sending him/her messages that what he/she is doing is fine, and it is okay to panic, be aggressive, hide, or do whatever he/she was doing out of fear.

Therefore, what you need to do, besides asking for professional help, you need to grab your dog’s attention to other things and give him/her treats for doing it. For instance, through your dog his/her favorite ball and ask him/her to bring it back, or bring him/her the game he/she loves the most and let him/her spend some time playing with it.

Can Dogs Have PTSD?

By doing that you are giving your dog the safe zone he/she used to it, and you are telling him/her that it is okay to panic, but it is better to stay calmed and relaxed by focusing on things we love.

Accordingly, there was a study revealed that rough and active play, even if it was for short periods, can help because it releases a large amount of (BNDFS), that by time, replaces the part of the brain that is responsible for keeping the bad memories.

Does that mean that every dog that is afraid of something have PTSD?

No, but there are some emotional problems, if you didn’t pay attention to it and asked for professional help can be a serious problem so fast. For instance, a lot of dogs that didn’t live through a major trauma have fears that cause anxiety that by time can make him aggressive.

For instance, some dogs are afraid of fireworks (you can find how to help him/her get rid of that fear from here), other dogs are afraid of thunder, horses, storms, loud noises (check how to help your dog here) and even shadows. There are plenty of things that do sometimes get afraid of that can grow and develop some serious problems if you didn’t notice it early.

Can dogs have PTSD, and be cured?

“Dogs never forget” That was the director of the animal behavior clinic at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University to response when he was asked if the PTSD is curable in an interview that was published in The New York Times. However, he said that is manageable

Therefore, it is very important to understand that dogs in wars suffer like soldiers after duty.

Can Dogs Have PTSD?

Related Questions:

1- Can dogs get PTSD from fireworks?

According to some recent estimates, yes, some dogs that experienced fireworks during the New Year’s Eve, 4th Of July or any other event that required a lot of fireworks and a lot of noise during it; experienced panic attacks that turned into PTSD.

It is a very serious disorder, so you really need to take care of how your dog responds to loud noises, fireworks, and strange people, too. Also, you need to understand that you need to be able to recognize whether your dog is just afraid that your four-legged friend is undergoing PTSD.

To do that, look for these two signs:

  • Different emotional respond to noises.
  • The out of fear reactions last for about 3 weeks to a month.

And that we know that your dog have a problem.

2- Can dogs get PTSD from abuse?

Well, the straight yes for this question. Dogs can get PTSD from abuse, and it can be very hard to cure or manage, too. You can watch this beautiful pitbull dog that experienced a really harsh abuse in her life and now rescued and rehabilitated.

And you can see how terrified she is, and how her owner is trying his best to gain her trust and make her life better, but she is giving him a real hard time but not responding fast to his attempts. Of course, not because she is mean, but because she has been abused before and she has PTSD, and that is not easy at all to any dog to get over it easily, and of course, needs both, the dog and the owner, to try their best to get over it and be better together,

Also, another amazing lesson we can learn here, is how the owner is taking baby steps towards his dog. He is not forcing her to eat, and he is not yelling at her, or telling her how bad dog she is for not eating or not responding to his attempts. He is just being so calm, relaxed and trying to comfort her by making her feel that she is finally in a safe place, and no one will abuse her here.

Last, but not least. Dogs that get PTSD from abuse can take a lot of time and effort to be better and gain trust again, which means a lot of effort and a lot of professional help.

To sum things up, PTSD is not the easiest disorder your dog can get, so it is better to help him not getting it at the first place, and save your dog from going through a lot.

Now, tell us about the first time you heard about the term PTSD, and Do you know a dog who has PTSD?

Ghada Harhash

Whenever the time of talking about ANYTHING comes, I find myself talking about my two dogs Leo and Blacky. It is a struggle that every dog owner understands. So, if we are talking about success, my dogs succeded in learning new tricks, if we are talking about failure, my dogs failed to make me hate them, if we are talking about love, my dogs are the pure form of true love, last but not least, if we are talking about kids, guess what! I have two. So, yes, it is all about my dogs. Therefore, you will find me here today, and every day, talking about, with and for dogs. It is my favorite subject, and since you are here, I believe it is yours, too. But, if you are interested in reading about other topics such as relationships, travel tips and tricks, and more. You can check my twitter account @ghaadaah_ where you get to know me, and I get to know you better.

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