Monday, February 21, 2011

Strange but True: Military Dogs Get PTSD

This post is slightly off-topic, but we thought it was something our readers might find interesting.

We all know about the severe toll that combat stress takes on our troops who are serving in a war s zone. It turns out that man's best friend is not immune from this stress either. A report in Army Times discloses that military dogs that are exposed to repeat deployments are exhibiting signs of PTSD, and those who work with the dogs say rates of canine PTSD diagnoses are increasing.

"The dogs that go overseas...we're starting to see some distress related issues," says Dr. Walter Burghardt, who is in charge of veterinary care for the Army. "It results in difficulty doing work.
They're distracted by loud noises. We're not saying it's the same as in people, but there are common things."

Asked whether PTSD in dogs can be treated, Burghardt responds "maybe." Dogs that are so distressed and scared that they're shaking and hiding can sometimes be given anti-anxiety medication, he says. Some dogs may need antidepressants. (No, we're not making this up.) For other dogs, doggie-therapy may be in order, such as desensitization and counter-conditioning therapy (which involves rehabilitating the dogs to loud noises or other stressors in a controlled setting), or perhaps recreational, social and work therapy.

All in all, about 25% of PTSD-diagnosed dogs are returning to service, whereas the remainder are either assigned other jobs or retired and adopted by local families. I guess war really is hell on everyone involved, whether you have four legs or two, and our military dogs are paying a price for combat. However, the fun one can have with the mental image of a doggie taking Prozac, now that's priceless.

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