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Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Military Dogs Show Symptoms Of PTSD

Photo of soldier Dereck Stevens and his military working dog, courtesy of The New York Times

We're all familiar with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the medical term used to describe various and sometime devastating symptoms that occur after experiencing a traumatic event-like soldiers returning from war, and 9/11's first responders. So we thought it was important to pass along this recent article from The New York Times, titled "The Dogs of War, Suffering Like Soldiers." to remind us that the four-legged heroes of war suffer alongside their human counterparts from this disorder.

According to this article, "...the four-legged, wet-nosed troops used to sniff out mines, track down enemy fighters and clear buildings are struggling with the mental strains of combat nearly as much as their human counterparts." And as do humans, different dogs show different symptoms: some become hyper-vigilant, while others exhibit major changes in temperament, like becoming unusually aggressive or in the opposite extreme, clingy and timid.

Highly trained military working dogs have become increasingly important to helping our troops (active duty military dogs have risen from 1800 in 2001 to at least 2700 today-a large increase considering the extensive training and cost required), and so has devising effective treatments for the canine version of PTSD. "Care can be as simple as taking a dog off patrol and giving it lots of exercise, playtime and gentle obedience training." But more serious cases demand more aggressive treatment, like "desensitization counter conditioning" which involves gradually exposing the dog to sights and sounds (like a gunshot or loud bang) and rewarding them for not reacting.

In a letter to the editor commenting on this article, a concerned medical doctor commented that "we owe our four-legged friends yet another debt of gratitude," for providing additional proof that these symptoms must be taken seriously: "If trauma-in a battle or elsewhere-can unhinge the uncluttered mind of a dog, how much more readily it must affect the complex mind of a human." And we couldn't agree more (although I take offense at the comment that my mind is uncluttered!)

As always, let us know what you think about this very important topic.


Two French Bulldogs said...

Wow, interesting how the pups are prone to the stress as well. Poor babys
Benny & Lily

Sage said...

I'm not surprised that dogs could exhibit PTSD. I'm really glad that it's being recognized and these dogs are getting treatment.

Stem Cell Therapy for Dogs said...

This is such an interesting topic. Dogs are like humans they also experience what we experience in our daily lives.

Unknown said...

Love that picture! It's really beautiful.

Bocci said...

I agree, Priscilla-what a sweet photo!

meowmeowmans said...

This makes so much sense. I'm really glad folks are recognizing that these dogs are affected by what they've experienced, and that people are working to help them.

KB said...

That is fascinating, absolutely fascinating. Sad for the military dogs but maybe they can be helped now that the problem has been identified.

I've always wondered whether K suffered something like PTSD. Her elder brother died when she was less than 6 months old. She was present when he passed, and she went from being a relaxed puppy to an incredibly fearful puppy. It lasted for months and months, where she refused to walk through certain hallways in our house or to go in certain crates. There were many other symptoms. It mostly resolved itself, but to this day, when she gets stressed out by anything, even an illness, those fears reappear. I wonder...

Unknown said...

It's my great pleasure to visit your blog and to enjoy your awesome posts here. I like that a lot PTSD.

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