Signs of Post-Traumatic Disorder in Dogs

Signs of Post-Traumatic Disorder in Dogs

Many animal behavior experts believe in the existence of PTSD or the post-traumatic stress disorder. It is known to be common in dogs.


PTSD Develops in a Dog Shot by Police

There was a case about a dog that decided to follow a police officer in a pursuit operation of a possible suspect. The dog’s interest was piqued by the excitement of the foot chase. Unluckily, the dog was shot by the said police officer, thinking he was about to attack him.

 The unfortunate dog fell to the ground, heavily bleeding because of his wounds and was really close to death. His worried owner scooped him up and rushed him to the nearest animal hospital, where the credible veterinary staff was able to save the said dog.

Even though the dog was able to recover physically from his wounds but the dog's behavior was changed forever. The dog became very anxious and hyper vigilant when normally he is a sensitive soul and pretty confident. He had to be near his owner every minute and would never take his eyes off him.

The said dog also developed an extreme fear of flashlights and police cars. He had what appeared to be nightmares and had also developed nocturnal separation anxiety so remarkably that the dog’s owner and his beloved son had to take turns in staying up with their beloved dog so the other one could sleep.

Even though there was no exact way to determine what was going on inside the poor dog, the changed in his behavior met the primary criteria for human post-trauma stress disorder or PTSD. This includes anxiety that lasts for more than three long months, difficulty in sleeping, nightmares, hyper-vigilance and avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma.


Abandoned Dogs shows sign of PTSD

Another study of a case showing the signs of post-traumatic stress disorder was published recently in the journal Scientific Reports documents about the condition of dogs unintentionally abandoned after an earthquake shake Fukushima, Japan in March 2011.

Many of the dogs were chained and left alone for long periods of time. Others have been roaming the streets or had been living in a semi-savage state in the exclusion zone near the nuclear reactor. These animals have not only endure a complete change in their living conditions but also a separation from their human facilities.

Behavior and Urinary cortisol levels of Fukushima dogs and dogs that had been abandoned but not under disaster conditions have been compared by the researchers.

The authors of the study concluded that their results “suggest the possibility that stress can induce excessive, deep psychosomatic impacts with implicit behavioral manifestations, such as deficits in attachment and learning ability also in the dog. Long-term care and concern regarding the psychological impact of disasters appear necessary in humans and companion animals.”


Post Traumatic Learning from Negative Experience

The post-traumatic learning that comes from a terrifying experience depends to a certain extent on the release of catecholamines in the brain in response to the event. Catecholamines are hormones that are produced by the adrenal glands like norepinephrine, epinerphine, and dopamine which are released into the blood during physical or emotional stress.

Several post-traumatic learning is helpful in allowing dogs to remember dangerous circumstances so it can be avoided in the future. This “negative learning” is not only functional but can also be dysfunctional when it becomes excessive and debilitating.

Just like with people, some dogs develop PTSD while others under the same circumstances do not. The reason for these differences is unknown.  Scientists have this theory that it may have to do with genetics. Some animals may be wired by nature to be more sensitive to the effects of psychological trauma than others.

If you have a dog who is or might be suffering from PTSD-like symptoms, you should consult both holistic veterinarian and animal behaviorist with experience in treating pets with PTSD and can also suggest natural therapies to work in conjunction with behavioral therapy.

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