Saturday 3 December 2016

US Army dogs being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder

Ian Hodgson in Washington

Published 04/08/2010 | 05:00

American military dogs are being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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The illness is well-documented among soldiers returning from wars but its existence in animals is less clear-cut.

"There is a condition in dogs which is almost precisely the same, if not precisely the same, as PTSD in humans," said US vet Nicholas Dodman. But some vets dislike applying the diagnosis to animals, thinking it demeans soldiers, he said.

Gina was a playful two-year-old German shepherd when she went to Iraq as a highly trained bomb-sniffing dog, witnessing all sorts of noisy explosions.

She returned home to Colorado cowering and fearful. When her handlers tried to take her into a building, she would stiffen her legs and resist. Once inside, she would tuck her tail beneath her body and slink along the floor. She would hide to avoid people. A military vet diagnosed with her PTSD.

"She showed all the symptoms and she had all the signs," said Master Sgt Eric Haynes, kennel master at Peterson Air Force Base. "She was terrified of everybody."

A year later, Gina is on the mend. Frequent walks among friendly people and a gradual re-introduction to the noises of military life have begun to overcome her fears, he said.

Mr Dodman said he doubted Gina could recover completely.

"It's a fact that fears once learned are never unlearned."

Irish Independent

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