Latest News 2017 August The Washington Post Asks If Pets Can Suffer from PTSD

The Washington Post Asks If Pets Can Suffer from PTSD

Anyone who has rescued an abused pet know that the scars of abuse take a long time to heal. In some cases, animals never get over the memory of being hurt or mistreated—in other cases, owners understand that they'll have a pet with attachment issues and higher-than-average clinginess. It's easy to understand, even when it doesn't have an official diagnosis. Animals have feelings. They experience things, albeit differently than we do, on an emotional and psychological level.

But can animals truly suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder like humans do?

Washington Post reporter Ruchi Kumar recounts her experience living in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, when a tanker truck bombing shook the city. The explosion ended up killing 150 and injuring at least 700—it was one of the largest explosions ever to occur in the nation. Ruchi writes about comforting her cat in the hours and days following the explosion:

"It took almost an hour of petting and hugs to calm her down…For the next week, Lola seemed edgy. Small sounds would startle her, and she followed me everywhere. She would caterwaul when I left the house and be clingy when I returned. She was eating less and losing weight. It took me a while to realize she might not be only physically unwell."

Her journey to find out what was wrong with her furry loved one led her to Hannah Surowinski, head of an animal shelter in Kabul. Hannah confirmed that she often sees animals exhibit signs of trauma and anxiety in much the way humans do—with each animal responding in unique ways. The U.S. military even has statistics on it: military veterinarians say that five percent of dogs that have served in Iraq and Afghanistan have "canine PTSD," which can make them more aggressive, more timid, or less able to function.

The Washington Post report then goes on to list other animals that have been the subject of PTSD studies. While veterinarians argue about the nature of animal PTSD, increasing research indicates that similar stress responses in humans and animals would lead to similar trauma-induced responses. Antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs have even been developed for animal patients—but the researcher featured in the article prefers the healing power of a safe and consistent environment.

If your pet has suffered serious trauma (or you suspect that their neurotic behavior is beyond "quirky"), find a local vet to help understand their needs. Understanding your pet's triggers and fears may be key to giving them the stable home they need. Find a qualified veterinarian today!

Categories: Pet Behavior