I write and speak often of the importance of caring for and about our doctors and nurses and other health and healthcare staff, about our patients and families, about our communities, and about therapy animals (all animals actually)…
First, because loving and caring for one another is the right thing to do.
Second, because we entrust the care and welfare of those we love and serve to these very people, and rely on these very animals … and to not ensure these people and animals are whole and healthy themselves will lead to harm to us all.
And as I have researched the harm done to therapy animals and also made the connection to the aborted (and then subsequently restarted) research of the VA assessing the impact of animal therapy on military personnel diagnosed with PTSD … I have also learned a great deal about Canine PTSD itself.
Military dogs returning from war zones are also showing signs of PTSD. And there’s evidence that these canines need some extra tender loving care after their tours of duty.
~ Ryan Loyd, npr, all things considered, Four-Legged Warriors Show Signs Of PTSD
Canine PTSD defined:
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.SOURCE: The DDOC Foundation
One of the characteristics of PTSD is that the original trauma is continually re-experienced by the victim. And each time the stress response is triggered, or re-triggered, a cascade of hormones and neurochemicals are released into the bloodstream, causing oxidative stress resulting in brain damage. This damage to the neural circuitry makes PTSD one of the most difficult psychological illnesses to treat.~ Lee Charles Kelley, Does PTSD Cause Brain Damage in Dogs, PsychologyToday.com, July 10, 2012
- Increased stress and anxiety, often manifesting in:
- whining, barking, howling, breaking house-training, tail down or between legs, ears back, dilated pupils, rapid panting with corners of mouth back, lowered body
- Displacement behaviors, often manifesting in:
- Licking chops without the presence of food
- Wet dog shake when not wet or dirty
- Sudden scratching when not itchy
- Yawning when not tired
- Unwarranted aggression
- Neurological damage
- Memory loss
- And trying to remove self from a situation
* NOTE: Just because your dog may experience one or more of these symptoms does not necessary mean he/she has C-PTSD. It is important for a professional to assess and diagnosis.
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.– DDOC Foundation
- Create a safe and quiet space which allows your dog to get away from stressor (or simply find safety)
- Place something familiar and calming in the safe space such as an article of your clothing or a favorite toy
- Play with you dog at his/her pace
- Set and return to a normal routine when possible
- Truly love and care for and about your dog
For only when we are each whole and healthy will we all be best positioned to care for one another and truly help each of us achieve our optimal well-being.~ TD