Military dogs taking Xanax, receiving therapy, for canine PTSD
Even the most hardened soldier can escape grievous wounds on the battlefield only to suffer deeply painful psychological traumas after returning home. And unfortunately, the same pattern of psychic trauma seems to apply for the dogs that help provide essential services for military men and women.
New York Times reporter James Dao has a heartbreaking story today, which reports that among the present corps of 650 military dogs, more than 5 percent deployed with American combat forces are suffering from canine Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). And of that group, about half are forced into retirement from service.
The relationship between military dogs and the service members who own them is a complex one. In fact, as recently as March, the military was highlighting the use of dogs to help treat human soldiers suffering from PTSD.
The study of canine PTSD is only about 18 months old, Dao reports, even though animal behaviour has been studied for centuries:
Like humans with the analogous disorder, different dogs show different symptoms. Some become hyper-vigilant. Others avoid buildings or work areas that they had previously been comfortable in. Some undergo sharp changes in temperament, becoming unusually aggressive with their handlers, or clingy and timid. Most crucially, many stop doing the tasks they were trained to perform.
“If the dog is trained to find improvised explosives and it looks like it’s working, but isn’t, it’s not just the dog that’s at risk,” said Dr Walter F Burghardt Jr, chief of behavioural medicine at the Daniel E Holland Military Working Dog Hospital at Lackland Air Force Base “This is a human health issue as well.” daily times monitor