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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.

PTSD can be expensive to treat. If you suspect your dog has PTSD or is at risk, start searching for pet insurance today. Brought to you by Pet Insurer, Wag! Wellness lets pet parents compare insurance plans from leading companies like PetPlan and Trupanion. Find the “pawfect” plan for your pet in just a few clicks!

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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

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Japanese Spitz

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Six Years

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Unknown severity

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12 found helpful

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

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Anxiety Shaking

she is a very sweet dog. But a very unfortunate and traumatizing incident changed her life . She was attacked by the street dogs. And since then she behaves very differently. she is afraid of thunderstorms, lightnings and even the rain that she used to enjoy . She hides in places where we cant reach her, When i look at her eyes, I don't see those sparkling twinkling happy eyes. I want to help her...but i dot know how to.

Sept. 27, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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12 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. . She may do very well on an anti-anxiety medication, as there are many available to help for situations like this. It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them, see what might be going on, and get any treatment that they might need.

Oct. 13, 2020

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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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16 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

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

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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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Average Cost

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

Average Cost

$1,500

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