Helping military dogs through PTSD
Dec 5, 2011
With the increase of military working dogs (MWDs) serving in America's wars, the number of canines suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is also rising, The New York Times reports.
Dr. Walter F. Burghardt Jr., chief of behavioral medicine at the Daniel E. Holland Military Working Dog Hospital at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, told the publication that some people estimate that about 5 percent of the 650 MWDs deployed by American forces are developing what he calls canine PTSD. Of those that develop the mental disorder, about half will be retired from service.
The actual diagnosis of PTSD in dogs is still being debated in the veterinary world, but MWDs that have been showing certain worrisome behavior patterns after exposure to explosions, gunfire or other combat-related violence in Iraq and Afghanistan are being treated for it already.
Some dogs need to be taken off-duty and given plenty of exercise, play and gentle obedience training to overcome their PTSD. Others go through "desensitization counterconditioning," during which they are exposed to the troublesome sound or sight from a safe distance. Others still are treated with anti-anxiety medications such as Xanax, the news source reports.
In response to this trend, a nonprofit group in Florida is beginning to send care packages to military working dogs. The group, Project KITT, is collecting pet supplies such as booties, eye goggles, god treats, toys and ear and eye cleaners for dogs overseas.