I am sure most of us have heard of post traumatic stress disorder as it relates to our soldiers returning home. However, have any of us considered that our pets can suffer from this disorder if they are exposed to the damage of a tornado or an earthquake?
Actually, it has been recorded that there are two relatively common situations that can produce this disorder: car accidents and being attacked by another dog.
After spending a night huddled in the basement, listening to the radio as the winds scream outside and the hail pounds the house walls, the pets are reading your apprehension and feeling very insecure. It is especially noticeable if the house is damaged by the storm such, as the roof or a porch being blown away. The roar of the elements and the vibration of the house as a portion of the structure is forcibly yanked away is a terrifying experience for both the humans and the pets.
How do you evaluate your dog’s response after such an ordeal? First, you observe as you try to pick up the pieces and return, as best possible, to a normal routine.
One clue that the dog is suffering PTSD is the avoidance of the area where it stayed during the storm. Another possible symptom is a blank, fearful look and a stiff gait as it moves around the house following you. The dog’s head may be lowered somewhat as it tries to keep you in sight. You might think Rover just doesn’t act normal, and you are right.
At that point, you should not baby the dog, “Oh, you poor sweetsums, Mama is going to take care of you.” Nor should you scold the dog, “Oh cut that out! You didn’t die!”
In the first scenario, the dog will think that your babying him is proof that he is right to be scared and you are rewarding him for acting that way. In the second place, the dog will be confused by the scolding since he has a one-track mind and cannot think that the reason he is scared is because of what happened two nights ago. Dogs just cannot think that way, so all you are doing is venting your own feelings and confusing an already frightened dog because he doesn’t know what he is doing — at that moment — that makes you so angry.
There are several methods to help the dog after a disaster.
You can work on desensitizing by encouraging him to go to the basement door where you give him a special treat. The next time, you might try to feed him at the door, followed by leaving the door open when you feed. Slowly progress until he is moving normally down to the basement to eat.
There are phernomes available that simulate the scent a mother dog excretes to calm the puppies. Spraying the bedding with this product will signal that all is well.
A third possibility might involve medication from the veterinarian or help from an animal behaviorist.