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What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

PTSD, or post traumatic stress disorder, is a well-documented condition in humans who have experienced traumatic situations. It can result in sleep disturbances, generalized anxiety, hypervigilance, depression, and irritability. More recently, this disorder was also recognized in dogs. canine post traumatic stress disorder, or C-PTSD, was first recognized by the military in dogs returning home from war. It is similar enough to human PTSD in behavior and responses to treatment that testing executed to help treat canine PTSD can often be converted into treatments for people as well.

Dogs who experience traumatic events can develop the condition known as post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. This can be treated using behavior modification, sometimes combined with anti-anxiety medications.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Average Cost

From 365 quotes ranging from $800 - $3,000

Average Cost

$1,500

Symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in Dogs

PTSD symptoms in humans are primarily cerebral by nature, signs like reoccurring thoughts, re-experiencing the event, and a distorted sense of self. As dogs are unable to explain to us what they are thinking or experiencing, we have to try and speculate these things from their behaviors. Behaviors that can indicate C-PTSD include: 

  • Avoiding familiar areas
  • Barking
  • Fear urination during greetings
  • Hiding
  • Hypervigilance
  • Out of proportion aggressive behaviors
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Shying away from people
  • Unwarranted stress reaction

Severe stress reactions in dogs can include:

  • Tail down or between legs 
  • Ears back
  • Dilated pupils
  • Lowered body
  • Rapid breathing 

Types

 

Acute post traumatic stress disorder is the most common form of PTSD seen in dogs. Acute reactions begin occurring directly after the traumatizing incident or incidents and generally subside within three months. 

Dogs with chronic post traumatic stress disorder also start showing symptoms within a relatively short time after the trauma, however, the symptoms remain persistent or easily triggered for longer than three months.

Delayed onset post traumatic stress disorder is PTSD that occurs more than six months after the inciting event. This is sometimes a worsening of symptoms that were initially very mild, or it may refer to symptoms that appear after a long delay.

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Causes of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in Dogs

  • Abuse - Severe or chronic abuse can lead to cases of PTSD

  • Accident - Accidents such as car accidents or hunting accidents may also trigger PTSD responses in canines
  • Attack - Attacks by other animals can trigger PTSD to develop.

  • Natural disasters - Natural disasters often leave many dogs stranded and separated from their human family members. 
  • Military or police careers - Dogs that are returning from military or police service, sniffing out bombs and tracking down criminals, may develop PTSD; humans in these career fields may also develop PTSD

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Diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in Dogs

When you bring your dog into the veterinarian for symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder, the first thing that they are going to want to do is rule out physical causes to your pet’s anxiety. A thorough physical exam will be able to reveal any areas that are swollen or appear to be painful to touch. Pain from undetected or unresolved chronic conditions can be confusing to animals and may cause them to become stressed. In these cases, canine PTSD symptoms should diminish quickly when the pain is alleviated.

Blood tests will be completed to check for bacterial or viral infections, hormonal imbalances, or toxins. Once physical origins have been ruled out, your veterinarian will look at the history of the patient. Recent traumatic events may cause your dog’s doctor to suspect canine PTSD, but diagnosis may be more difficult in cases of delayed PTSD symptoms, or symptoms related to a trauma that you are unaware of.

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Treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in Dogs

Treatments for dogs with PTSD can be a combination of behavioral and medical treatments. The most commonly prescribed medication given to dogs that are exhibiting behavior consistent with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is Alprazolam, a benzodiazepine sedative more commonly known as Xanax. Other sedative drugs that may be considered include Diazepam (Valium), Sertraline (Zoloft), or even Fluoxetine (Prozac). Most humans use talk therapy in one form or another in order to work through the stress of the traumatic incident. Unfortunately, this isn’t an option for our canine companions. Instead, we focus on retraining techniques that help the dog feel that the world is a safe place again. These methods could include; keeping a stricter routine so the dog knows what to expect, exercise and play therapies, and dog pheromone collars and infusers.

Exercise and play therapy sessions should be vigorous, but the dog should be relaxed and enjoying the playtime. These sessions are intended to increase the levels of dopamine, improving your dog’s mood in a safe and efficient manner. If your dog is exhibiting aggression instead of play, the chemicals that are being released are more likely to be stress hormones, inflating the problem rather than reducing it. Any sign of tension or fear should end the session for the time being until the dog is able to relax again.

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Recovery of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in Dogs

Xanax is available in a canine formula that you can get by prescription from your dog’s doctor. Do not use human formulated Xanax for your dog, the way that your dog metabolizes this drug is very different from the way a person metabolizes the drug and dosages will vary based on your dog’s specific response to the medication on which side effects appear. Dogs with conditions that cause muscular weakness along with conditions like liver trouble and glaucoma should avoid taking Alprazolam. Some dogs have a paradoxical response to the medication and become hyperactive or aggressive while under its influence. If this occurs stop giving the medication and contact a veterinary professional right away.

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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Average Cost

From 365 quotes ranging from $800 - $3,000

Average Cost

$1,500

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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Brennan

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Wolfhound Dane

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11 Months

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Serious severity

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1 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Anxiety
Hyper-Vigilant
Acute Fear Response - Flight
Terrified Of Everything

Our dog Brennan was a recent rescue, in May of 2018, he had been found wandering on the highway after the ice storm, starving and very malnourished. When we brought him home, he was a curious, goofy, bold adolescent who delighted in self-entertaining, and was an absolute joy. One morning while walking him we witnessed a very bad car accident that involved a vehicle losing control and smashing through the window of the restaurant directly across the street from us. The sound of the impact was absolutely tremendous. From there, came sirens, firetrucks, police, and since we'd witnessed the incident I had to stay to give a statement. This, unfortunately prolonged his exposure to this very stressful event. Now since then his fears have grown exponentially, daily. What was once a curious, bold dog, Brennan has now begun to process the outside world as wrought with seen and unseen terrors. Every sound, shadow, sudden movement, car door slamming, car alarm, trees rustling, empty blue bin on the sidewalk, trains, motorcycles, lawnmowers, anything and everything has the potential to be a threat. He is in constant flight mode. His gait is no longer one that is open and excited to explore his world, it's now in pre-flight mode. Most recently he became so terrified by an empty blue bin that he leapt up in the air, over the blue bin, into the street, and dragged me head first into the blue bin which of course confirmed that blue bins were evil. From there he panicked, and broke free running with the retractor leash smashing behind him on the sidewalk, creating an even more terrifying experience for himself. Luckily he fled home, thank god, but next time may not be so fortunate. He's a wolfhound/poodle cross and is at least 130lbs - very strong and unreachable when he shuts down and goes into full flight mode. I am worried for my own safety now, and his. I sustained a torn rotator cuff, bruised sternum/rib and multiple scrapes and bruises from the blue bin event. Now a walk is no longer one he looks forward to. Any motion toward the gate has him fleeing to the back yard. Once off property, his expectation of potential terrors are all around us at any given moment.

Sept. 5, 2018

Brennan's Owner

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Rocket

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Border Collie

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5 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Anxiety
Biting
Tail Tucking
Total Shut Down
Fully Submits When Loved

We rescued a Border Collie who had his back leg cut off, it looks like it was done with an axe. He also had his teeth filed down. He was very dirty and infested when we got him. We've had him for about six months now. He has severe PTSD. I worry that his quality of life is greatly decreased, and we try to give him love and take him on long walks, it is just that nothing seems to help. I really want to help him and I'm not sure how. Sometimes he is happy and full of energy, but other times its like he isn't all the way there mentally. Do you have any advice? I just really want to make sure we give him the quality of life he deserves. He's a good boy deep to his core.

Aug. 21, 2018

Rocket's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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I can't imagine the horrors that Rocket has experienced, and I would never expect that to go away. He may need anti-anxiety therapy for the rest of his life, and if his dosage isn't helping, you may need to add medications to help him. If he is so anxious that he is suffering, letting him go may be the kindest thing for him, and I can't comment on that without seeing him. It would be best to talk with your veterinarian about him, his quality of life, anything else that may be able to be done for him, and his situation in general. I hope that he is okay.

Aug. 21, 2018

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Koda

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husky sheppard

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2 Years

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Mild severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Vomiting

My dog was home when somebody committed suicide by gun, he protected the body after from police when they arrived. It has been 3 days so far and e has been throwing up his food after he eats, what other possible other symptoms may occur in the weeks after and what is the best way to help him

Aug. 18, 2018

Koda's Owner

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0 Recommendations

Due to the uncommon nature of this type of traumatic event, it is difficult to say how Koda will be over the next few weeks; like humans, animals process traumatic events and bereavement differently so I cannot give you any specific information. It is still very early after the event and Koda will need time as we don’t know how long Koda was with the body for and how much stress that caused. Normally I don’t recommend medications for behavioural issues, however given the circumstances it may be worth consulting your Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 18, 2018

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Gus

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Poodle

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2 Years

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Serious severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Jumping And Urinating

I have a male toy poodle that is 2 1/2 when the incidence accured he was 1 1/2 our oldest dog died and Gus was visually upset but 1 wk after that our house caught on fire from a lightning strike which was very tramatic for us all, my husband saved the house but the fire dept was there and all the chaose that goes with that, then the following week it caught on fire again from another lightning strike but that time we had so many smoke alarms going off that i think i had some hearing damage done plus i have also been dignosed with ptsd, Gus started doing this think of jumping, just random jumping maybe sitting in your lap and just jump right straight up. i was worried it was his eyes so i took him to the vet to be checked she said he was fine except she thought he also has ptsd the only time he really starts jumping is when the weather starts coming in as a storm. but we also have a problem of urinating in the house, he has a doggie door and a fenced back yard but i think he is scared to go out there so i don't know how to get him trained back to going outside. he is a very loving dog but he will just pee anywhere and it's starting to get me at the end of my rope i just don't know how to make him start going outside i try to be nice and not yell always ask him if he needs to go pee pee and go outside with him but he just acts scared. any advice would be amazing.

Aug. 13, 2018

Gus' Owner

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Two lightning strikes in two weeks is not something you read every day; it isn’t a surprise that all the stress and commotion caused by the lightning strikes have left Gus and yourself with PTSD. There is no single quick fix or solution to Gus’ problem but with time and help you can bring him back to how he was before; we have a few training guides linked below which may be useful for you, have a read through and at the bottom of each guide there is a section where you can ask a certified dog trainer a question for follow up. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM https://wagwalking.com/training/stop-being-afraid-of-thunder https://wagwalking.com/training/stop-being-fearful https://wagwalking.com/training/not-pee-at-night

Aug. 14, 2018

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Tickle

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Black Russian Terrier

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16 Months

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Barking Uncontrollable
Very Intense And Alert
Scared Of People And Noises

2 weeks ago my family and I got into a car accident and my dog was in the car, she was not physically injured but since the accident I have noticed some changes in her behavior. Before the accident she didn't bark unless needed, she was calm and friendly, loved people and everything. She was always good about riding in the car. But since the accident she pants in the car a lot, she has been barking at everything whether there is something outside or not, when people walk up to her she gets very tense and she growls and crouches back away from them. I think she may have some PTSd from the accident but I dont know how to help her or what I need to do, if you could let me know, thank you.

Aug. 3, 2018

Tickle's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1 Recommendations

It wouldn't surprise me if that kind of trauma affected Tickle, especially if you have noticed the changes since then. She may benefit from anti-anxiety medication, for a short or longer term, just until she feels more confident and isn't so scared of everything. Your veterinarian can help you with that medication, as there are quite a few available and you will need a prescription for that. I hope that she is okay.

Aug. 3, 2018

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Tux

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Husky

dog-age-icon

3 Years

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Mild severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Aggression
Whining
Anxiety
Pacing

My boy Tux is my rescue who I got from a friend of a friend who was hitting and starving him. Ever since I got him he is extremely aggressive with his feet being touched. He whines when he is inside wanting to go outside but when he's outside he still whines and paces around the perimeter of our fence. We also have issues with him taking off a lot. When out in town, he gets along with everyone and most dogs but will also whine if I stop to talk to someone.

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Yuki

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Shiba Inu

dog-age-icon

4 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Shaking
Nervous
Anxiety
Occasionally Diluted Pupils

Hi! My dog Yuki has recently been attacked by another dog.We have been to the vet,his wounds are fine,but the only issue is that he doesn't want to go outside. Whenever we bring him outside he either just stands there,sniffing around or sits/lays down.He also has his tail between his legs and sometimes he shivers in a way. We're scared that he might have some bladder issues in the future.He hasn't done his business in over 12 hours. (he never does it in the house) He's also terrified of other dogs now.

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MAX

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Old English Bulldogge

dog-age-icon

4 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Barking
Growling
Snapping
Ptsd

WE RECENTLY ADOPTED A 4 YRS OLD ENGLISH BULLDOG AND HE RECENTLY HAS GROWLED AND SNAPPED AT MY TWO OLDER GIRLS WHILE THEY WERE PETTING/LOVING ON HIM. HE ALSO HAS HAD AN ENCOUNTER WITH OUR NEIGHBORS DOG TWICE, WHERE SHE HAS CAME INTO OUT YARD AND ATTACKED HIM. WHICH WAS VERY TRAUMATIZING. HE HAS NEVER EVER HAD ANY OTHER OUTBURST LIKE THIS BEFORE, EVEN WITH HIS PREVIOUS OWNER WHO WE ARE FRIENDS WITH. JUST A WORRIED DOG MOM??

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Goldie

dog-breed-icon

Terrier mix

dog-age-icon

3 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Shaking
Aggression
Nervous
Lunging
Biting
Barking
Hiding

I adopted a terrier mix and was told by the foster home that she came from an abuse and neglect background— living in a car from birth with 4 other dogs. All 5 dogs were recommended to be euthanized by the city animal shelter because of their severe PTSD and aggression. A rescue group adopted them all and placed them in foster homes. I have now had her for 2 years and she clearly has very severe PTSD. I have tried everything training-wise to mitigate it to no avail. She is very skittish around strangers and even people she’s met before. She will bark and run at house guests, even having bitten a few people. If someone in public even glances at her she will bark and make an attempt to attack. We have another rescue dog who she gets along with very well, but any other strange dog she immediately will attack and bark at, even if the dog is docile and uninterested in her. If we talk loud in our home she cowers, even if we aren’t raising our voices at or around her any loud noises or voices cause her to become fearful and guilty. If our other dog does something naughty she will hide as if she’s guilty by association. We have never once laid a hand on her and do not yell at her ever- but she acts as though she is going to be beaten. It is very heart breaking to watch, as she is a very kind and gentle dog towards my husband and I, and our other rescue dog. I’m unsure how bad her previous situation was, but it must’ve been horrible. I am 8 months pregnant currently and am very concerned about her barking and attacking behavior, as I am afraid she say bite our baby. She has lunged at small children multiple times before. I am unsure if I need to take her in for serious professional training or if I need to just put her on the dog form of Xanax to sedate her. I would prefer to not have to medicate her and allow her to live her life unsedated, but she seems so chronically stressed.

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Janis

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Chihuahua

dog-age-icon

5 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Shaking
Anxiety

Hello, We rescued a long-haired chihuahua from a puppy mill. For the first 3 years of her life she was kept in a cage and used for breeding. Her nipples are large from years of suckling and she’s very timid and afraid from everything she’s been through. We thought her PTSD would go away after a few months but two years later she’s shown only minor improvement. (She’s begin to drink water on her own about a year ago) As of 2 weeks ago, she has seemed to digress and would hide under the bed for hours, she would skip meals and become afraid at the smallest things. My question is: How do we get her to be less afraid of everything as it relates to the short-term (when she’s hiding) and in the long term and if there’s anything we can do to help change her behavior? My wife and I are against medicines like Xanax (which I’ve read on other forums) so any help whatsoever is greatly appreciated. Thank you, Alex

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Average Cost

From 365 quotes ranging from $800 - $3,000

Average Cost

$1,500

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