What is Canine Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
Canine Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) is a type of anxiety disorder seen in dogs that have experienced some sort of trauma. Common causes may include car accidents, household accidents, physical or emotional abuse, and negative interactions with other dogs or animals.
The most infamously known for suffering from C-PTSD are the dogs of the U.S. Military and Law Enforcement Agencies. These dogs are strong, brave, fearless, and trained to do things that most dogs can’t imagine. Yet, just like our human military members, even they have a breaking point.
You may ask, “What can I do for my dog with C-PTSD?” The answer is simple; be there for them, and when they do have issues try to deescalate the situation. At times this can be very difficult to do, especially since they cannot verbally communicate their concerns with us. Some people have found that their dogs PTSD will pass over time, while others have found that training or exposure therapy have helped reduce or eliminate any C-PTSD symptoms.
Dogs suffering from C-PTSD will exhibit signs of anxiety or stress.
Some signs of stress in dogs are:
- Tail down or between legs
- Ears back
- Dilated pupils
- Rapid panting with corners of the mouth back
- Lowered Body
If you see any of these signs, stop and teak a break from whatever activity you and your dog are participating in. Remove whatever is stressing your dog or remove your dog from the situation.
Anxiety in dogs can be displayed by displacement behaviors or avoidance. Displacement behaviors are normal behaviors displayed out of context
Some examples of displacement behaviors in dogs are:
- Licking chops without the presence of food
- Wet dog shake when not wet or dirty
- Sudden scratching when not itchy
- Yawning when not tired
Some dogs will try to remove themselves from a situation if they feel anxious. They may pull at the end of their leash, circle an object like a chair or table, pull towards what they see as an exit, or try to climb into the handlers arms.
It is important to note that you should NOT force a dog to stay in a situation that he feels anxious.
Also note that if your dog displays one or more of these behaviors does not automatically give your dog the C-PTSD diagnosis. If you believe that your dog is suffering from C-PTSD, or your dog displays some of these symptoms and they are getting worse then please seek assistance from a professional in your area.
Treatment of C-PTSD will vary on the severity and can range from a couple of training sessions to lifelong medications. It can also range in time from weeks to years. Many cases are not curable, but rather manageable. It will be up to you t control your dogs environment and his exposure to certain things.
It is important to consult with your veterinarian and a local trainer or animal behaviorist to develop the best plan for you and your dog to get the best possible results.
** PLEASE do not attempt to treat C-PTSD on your own as you may inadvertently make the situation worse **