As humans, we know post-traumatic stress, or PTSD, to be a result of a traumatic event or experience that causes severe flashbacks or anxiety for prolonged periods of time. It can manifest in bouts of aggression, irrational fear, or even depression. Dogs, just like humans, are capable of experiencing PTSD and as a dog-owner, you may be reading this because you are concerned about your pet. Read on to understand what causes PTSD in dogs and what the symptoms are to help your furry friend today.
What Causes PTSD In Dogs?
Like humans, PTSD in dogs is generally caused by negative experiences a dog has had earlier on in their lifetime, either before you owned them or when they were younger which you may already be aware of, but may not realize it has caused your dog post-traumatic stress. Some examples may include, but are not limited to:
- Separation anxiety, due to fear of past abandonment or from being left alone for prolonged periods of time
- Extreme weather, like thunderstorms or hurricanes, and loud noises, like fireworks, as a result of a car accident possibly
- Other animals or people, from past abuse or a fight with another animal
Unlike humans, it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly why your dog is experiencing severe stress because they cannot explain why to you. You can, though, observe your dog, and see which specific experiences trigger your dog into a state of stress, in order to help prevent further situations like it.
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 the owner.
Symptoms Of PTSD In Dogs
If you are contemplating whether or not your dog has symptoms of PTSD due to changes in behavior or mood, look for the following:
- Trembling and shaking — perceptively out of fear and not from cold or excitement, even though they are not in a dangerous situation
- Frequent barking for no obvious reason
- Becoming shy in the presence of people and other animals
- Constantly hiding, even if nothing appears to be wrong
- Contrary to the above, hypervigilance and refusal to leave your side
- Hesitation while visiting certain places. This can happen in familiar spaces!
- Urinating out of fear when greeted by someone from outside the family or a complete stranger
- Aggression to the point of being a danger to other people and animals.
What To Do If Your Dog Is Aggressive Due To PTSD
A dog whose PTSD manifests itself in aggression or violence can exhibit reactions to stress which may be unpredictable and out of the ordinary. 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:
- Rapid breathing
- Lifted haunches
- Low-body position near the ground
- Ears pulled back
- Dilated pupils
- Audible growling or raised jowls; teeth bared
Natural Remedies To PTSD In Dogs
If you are a dog owner who has reason to believe your dog is experiencing PTSD or consulted with a veterinarian that that is indeed the case, see our other blog post on natural remedies to manage PTSD for your dog by Botanical Animal Flower Essences.