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Post-traumatic syndrome in dogs

Post-traumatic dog syndrome is a behavioral disorder that occurs after an event that is traumatic for the animal, such as a car accident, assault, abuse, or abandonment. As with humans, post-traumatic dog syndrome is associated with intense and persistent stress, which can have negative consequences for their physical and mental health. What are the signs and symptoms? What may be the underlying causes and what treatments are available to help your dog recover?
Team Jagger.Lewis
Date of publication
April 11, 2023
Post-traumatic dog syndrome is a behavioral disorder that occurs after an event that is traumatic for the animal, such as a car accident, aggression or abandonment for example. As with humans, this syndrome is associated with intense and persistent stress, which can have negative consequences on one's physical and mental health.
Signs and symptoms of post-traumatic dog syndrome

Dog post-traumatic syndrome can occur in a variety of ways, depending on the nature and severity of the traumatic event. Symptoms may be subtle or obvious and may develop immediately after the event or several weeks or even months later. Common signs of post-traumatic syndrome include:

  • Avoidance: The dog can avoid people, places, or situations that remind him of the traumatic event. For example, a dog that has been involved in a car accident may avoid getting into a car.

  • Hyper-vigilance: The dog can be excessively vigilant, constantly monitoring its environment and being easily frightened by harmless stimuli, such as loud noises or sudden movements.

  • Aggressive behaviors: out of fear, he can become aggressive towards the people or animals around him, sometimes without warning.

  • Separation anxiety: A dog may be anxious when separated from owners or other pets, displaying behaviors such as excessive barking, scratching, or crying.

  • Repetitive behaviors: The dog may engage in repetitive and stereotyped behaviors, such as compulsive licking, swinging back and forth, or biting its tail.

Underlying causes of post-traumatic dog syndrome

Dog post-traumatic syndrome is caused by intense and prolonged stress, which can disrupt the central nervous system and lead to changes in the brain. Stress can also impact levels of cortisol and other stress-related hormones, which can weaken an animal's immune system and make it more vulnerable to disease. Canids that have been abused or abandoned may be particularly at risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder because they have experienced intense and prolonged emotional distress.

Treatment of post-traumatic syndrome in dogs

Treating post-traumatic dog syndrome may require a combination of behavioral therapies, medications, and lifestyle changes. Behavioral therapy may include techniques such as desensitization and counterconditioning, which involve slowly presenting the dog with stimuli associated with the traumatic event in a positive manner, in order to change its emotional response to these stimuli. Positive reinforcement training can also help reinforce desirable behaviors and improve the dog's confidence and overall well-being.

Medications can also be used to help treat symptoms of post-traumatic dog syndrome, such as antidepressants, anxiolytics, and antipsychotics. However, it is important to work with a veterinarian to determine the most appropriate treatment for your dog, as some medications can have negative side effects.

Finally, lifestyle changes can help reduce dog stress and improve the dog's quality of life. This may include regular walks and exercise, a healthy and balanced diet, and a safe and comfortable home environment. It can also be beneficial to hire a behaviorist to work with you and your dog to create a personalized and effective treatment plan.

Post-traumatic dog syndrome is a behavioral disorder that can have negative consequences for the health and well-being of your pet. However, with proper treatment and behavior, most dogs can recover and return to normal life. If you think your dog may be suffering from PTSD, it's important to see a veterinarian or behaviorist for professional evaluation and advice on treatment options.

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