Is your dog suffering from PTSD?

by Nancy Boland

Things that may cause PTSD-like symptoms in dogs:

Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can affect dogs just as it can people. Dogs can be thrown into a state of extreme stress over a variety of different experiences. Common causes may include weather – including natural disasters like hurricanes and tornadoes, car accidents, household accidents, and physical or emotional trauma during interactions with people or other animals. Your dog may have been attacked in the past and developed a fear reaction, for example. So, is your dog suffering from PTSD?

PTSD dogs 1

Signs that your dog may have PTSD

It’s inevitable that your dog will encounter the occasional stressful situation that may inflict some temporary anxiety, but at what point does it begin to negatively affect them long term and when should you get help?

1)      The extremeness or the severity of the reaction. If your dog consistently overreacts to an otherwise ‘’uneventful’’ situation that seems extreme or unnecessary.

2)      The duration of the reaction. If a traumatic experience occurs to your dog, and the fear does not dissipate after being gently and gradually exposed to the experience again, and it continues to get worse, then you could be dealing with something a lot bigger than stress. If the excessive reactions last for a month without any improvement, then this could be a big sign of PTSD.

What to do

If your dog has undergone trauma or stress and is not showing signs of improving, it’s important to have your dog evaluated by a professional before the condition worsens.

The best option is to see if there are any animal behaviourists in your area. However, if there is not a behaviourist in your area, take your dog into your veterinarian. They will assess the basic problem and will be able to refer you to additional resources your dog might require, such as diagnostic testing, specialised training, or prescribed medication.

Treatment

An animal behaviourist will go through your dog’s history and will assess his condition. He will then look at behaviour modification options such as counter-conditioning, basic training that hasn’t been done already, or behaviour exercises that can be done at home.

Dogs undergoing severe trauma might require additional behaviour modification training or be assigned to a specialised trainer. Other treatment plans involve prescription medication, which can include food therapy, herb therapy, or supplements as well as prescribed anxiety medication designed to alleviate fear, anxiety, or aggression issues.

The majority of dogs with PTSD-like symptoms can be treated. However, it takes specialised therapies and knowledge to address some of the more complex behavioural issues as well and time, patience and love.

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