We’ve all heard of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in humans. Many of us know someone who deals with it on a daily basis.
But have you ever considered whether humans are the only ones who can suffer from symptoms of PTSD? Yes, I’m talking about PTSD in dogs.
Especially after a stressful situation, dogs can start to show similar PTSD symptoms as humans. In most cases, rescued dogs are most prone to developing PTSD-like symptoms. But, this can also occur in your dog even if you’ve had her since she was a pup and you raised her well.
So, how do you identify these symptoms or manage them without drugs?
What Causes PTSD In Dogs?
PTSD in dogs is generally caused by the experiences a dog has during her lifetime. The more stressful an experience is, the greater the chances for a dog to develop PTSD.
In many cases, a dog can become fearful as a result of the high dose of stress she went through. The factors that put a dog in a hard-to-bear stressful situation can vary from one dog to another.
What kind of experiences can be traumatic for dogs?
- Changes in the weather, like a thunderstorm or
hurricaneare two example
- Accidents around the house, car crashes
andemotional trauma are others.
- Bad interactions with other people or animals can all turn a normal dog into a stressed-out dog.
A dog that suffers from PTSD may need a little or a lot of help. Fear can easily transform into aggressive behavior, typically out of a protective/defensive reaction. This is why it’s worth learning how to handle such cases to make things easier both for the dog and for you, as her owner.
Symptoms Of PTSD In Dogs
In humans, PTSD manifests through a series of thoughts, memories or dreams. This is due to the fact that the problem is one that manifests at a cerebral level. The same happens in dogs, only our companions cannot explain what is happening to them.
A dog suffering from PTSD-like symptoms will show changes in her behavior. Usually, these changes are of a negative nature, as they’re fueled by stress and discomfort. PTSD can even lead to aggressiveness triggered by fear and stress.
A dog suffering from PTSD may become less trustful when around new people. She might become shy, preferring to hide instead of seeking human company. Such a dog may also be vigilant in an excessive manner. Any changes in her surroundings might make her raise her guard.
These are the signs to keep an eye out for if you suspect that your dog may be experiencing PTSD:
- Hesitation when visiting certain places. This happens even in the case of familiar places
- Barking rather often and for no obvious reason
- Urinating out of fear when greeted by someone from outside the family or a complete stranger
- Hiding at the smallest sign of disturbance, even when nothing appears to be wrong
- Becoming highly vigilant and constantly keep an eye on what is happening around it
- Trembling or shaking, even if it isn’t cold or there are no signs of immediate dangers
- Becoming shy in the presence of people and trying to avoid human contact
- Some dogs can become aggressive to the point of becoming real dangers to everybody. Their reactions to stress-generating factors can be unpredictable and out of the ordinary
Dogs communicate a lot through body language. So, you should also pay attention to signs that show your dog is in distress. The ability to read your dog’s body language will give you the power to take proper precaution methods. Doing so will lower the dog’s distress and keep everyone else safe. Here are the signs you should look for:
- The dog pulls her ears back
- Her tail is low, between her legs
- The pupils are dilated
- The position of her body is low, near the ground
- She will begin to breathe at a rapid pace
Dealing With A Traumatized Dog
An overly stressed dog will usually be highly sensitive to external factors. Once PTSD develops, even the smallest amount of stress can cause a reaction. This can get them in a fragile state.
The most important thing you need to do is be calm and patient with your dog. Remember to adopt a calm state of mind and behavior in her presence. You need to inspire confidence and reassure her at all times. Use your body language and state of mind to let her know that nothing bad will happen.
Don’t get mad, upset or irritated with your dog. Don’t raise your voice at her. Try to avoid quick, jerking movements. Instead, create a calm and soothing environment around your dog. This will allow a faster recovery.
Bear in mind that the recovery process can be slow and it may take a while. Embrace your inner patience.
How To Help A Dog With PTSD
Seeing your dog in a traumatized state can be very tough. But you have a chance to make things better, even in the most severe cases. The process will take time and effort, but it’s not impossible to get the desired results.
It’s very rewarding to see a traumatized dog regain her self-confidence and desire to live and play. As a dog owner, there are many things you can do to help your dog.
1. Create A Safe Space
Dedicate an area of your house to your dog and make it as safe as possible. If it’s more convenient for you, you can even come up with several safe spaces for the dog around the house.
Use a dog bed, mat, blanket, really anything that’s soft and comfortable to make a little nest. While the dog relaxes and rests there, make sure nothing bad happens to the dog or startles her.
Supervise your dog while it spends time in these safe areas. The whole idea is to teach the dog to associate these places with security and calmness. This way she can take a break from feeling scared and stressed all the time.
2. Come Up With A Daily Routine
A routine is good for dogs of all ages and states, not just for those suffering from PTSD. It helps them get organized and know what to expect during each moment of the day.
Such a schedule should include daily walks, meal times, play time and other activities. Make sure that the dog is involved in every activity at the same hour each day. This way, she’ll know what to expect and when to expect it.
Removing the element of surprise and helping the dog predict what will happen next can work to keep her calm. This way, she won’t get scared when you go to do an activity she’s used to.
3. Offer Support, But Allow Her To Choose
As dog owners, we’re tempted to think that we know what is best for our dogs. But, when dealing with dog suffering from PTSD, things change. To increase the quality of life for your dog and lower her levels of stress, you need to let her choose what feels right.
What does that mean? Allow your dog to choose where to go on walks, instead of pulling her after you. If your dog’s nervous about a car ride, don’t insist on it. Try your best to avoid any stressful situations. Look for distress signs in your dog at all times and allow her to do things the way she finds it comfortable.
4. Adopt A Positive State Of Mind And A Calm Attitude
Dogs are very receptive to the way we are on a daily basis. If you’re upset or worried, your dog will sense it and will copy your mood and state of mind.
Instead, be calm and reassuring. If your dog senses your confidence, she’ll feel much better in your company. She’ll feel safe and will stop being so vigilant, trying to be ready for whatever may happen.
5. Use Natural Calming Remedies
It’s possible to calm down a nervous or anxious dog with safe and natural remedies. These will remove stress without having to give your dog drugs.