There’s daily news about our military suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). as the result of wars persisting in the Middle East and the number of tours of duty soldiers sign up for. But what about our military service dogs who support and protect these soldiers?
Like their human counterparts, they are now experiencing the horrific effects of PTSD as well. But unlike humans, they can’t explain what they experienced making their treatments all the more important to address as they start showing physical symptoms. Dr. Christopher Pachel, a board certified veterinary behaviorist based in Portland, Oregon says that in these cases, “the primary obstacle that prevents him from diagnosing the condition as actual PTSD is the lack of understanding of what the dogs are experiencing mentally.”
Tactical & Strategical
Over the last couple of decades, canines have been increasingly used in military conflicts. Special forces dogs such as those who assisted in the assassination of Osama Bin Laden have gone beyond the call of duty. Being equipped with sensitive olfactory glands, they have become the best first line of defense against improvised explosive devices (I.E.D.’s). These are roadside bombs using chemical explosives.
Veterinarians attending to potential PTSD cases need to discern how the dogs respond to loud noises such as gunfire or whether they react with aggression or fear to their handlers, who they may hold responsible for being putting them harms way. Afflicted dogs may also hold aversions to the settings of the trauma, whether it be a vehicle, terrain or physical edifices. By ascertaining the root of the trauma, veterinarians can begin the necessary work of desensitizing the dog so the events, participants, or locations no longer cause these types of reactions.
Many of these dogs also demonstrate human-like long-term symptoms such as anxiety and panic attacks, and treatment now includes prescribing anti-anxiety medications such as Xanax designed specifically for dogs, with appropriate dosages determined by the size of the animal.
How do pet owners deal with potential PTSD . . .
If your pooch has undergone trauma or stress and is not showing signs of improvement, Pachel recommends you have your dog evaluated by a professional before the condition worsens.
“I had an owner bring a dog to me that had survived a tornado. A tree hit the house and it was very stressful to the dog. The dog’s anxiety continued to escalate and just a couple of days later, somebody in the home accidentally slammed a door in the household and the dog jumped through a second story window! That’s a situation where you need to bring him in immediately. That’s not exactly a situation where you can say, ‘Let’s wait a minute and see if it gets better by itself!” exclaims Pachel.
The best option, according to Pachel is to make an appointment to see a specialist — such as a veterinary behaviorist. If you can’t find a local behaviorist, 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, specialized training, or prescribed medication.
Primary Source: Caesar's Way