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Finding Calm After the Storm: PTSD in Pets


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The news has recently been dominated by images and stories reflecting the victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, and other disasters. While thousands of the victims of these devastating natural disasters are human, many of them are animals, which, according to recent studies, just like people, can suffer emotional responses to the traumas that they encounter.

In 2011, The New York Times reported on a study conducted by Dr. Walter F. Burghardt, Jr.—the chief of behavioral medicine at the Daniel E. Holland Military Working Dog Hospital at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas—that found that military working dogs are at risk for developing behavioral problems that were most easily categorized as “canine post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).” Since then, the veterinary world has debated the occurrence of PTSD in dogs, but many doctors believe that like humans, dogs can develop PTSD after experiencing a traumatic event.

Traumatic experiences can range from being in the vicinity of an exploding bomb or abused by an owner to a car accident or a natural disaster. These events can have dramatic effects on the pets that experience them, according to industry participants, “Pets can have situational anxiety because they do not understand the events that are taking place around them,” said   Alina Smith, CEO and co-founder of Pet Releaf in Englewood, Colo., in an interview with Pet Product News.

So for many pet specialty retailers, understanding how trauma can affect pets may be more important than ever, as the lives of hundreds of animals have been affected by the Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

In the coming weeks, retailers in various parts of the United States and Puerto Rico are likely to encounter customers with pets that are struggling to cope following the recent hurricanes. Many pet owners may even step in to adopt animals that have been abandoned or separated from their families during the storms. Because of this, retailers should be familiar with the symptoms of PTSD and anxiety in animals and be prepared to offer guidance to those consumers who are seeking solutions on calming their anxious pets.

Burghardt noted in his study that the military dogs that suffered from PTSD displayed a range of symptoms. Some of the dogs avoided areas they had used to be comfortable in, others became hyper-vigilant, and some of the dogs experienced temperament changes. Similar symptoms may also be displayed by pets in the civilian world, and it is important to note that while two dogs may experience the same trauma, their reactions to the event may vary.

Dogs and other animals that have experienced trauma need extra care and attention. If someone suspects their pet is suffering from PTSD, the first step is to get in contact with a veterinarian. While a veterinarian or animal behaviorist will help pet owners create a treatment plan, there are also a few things that have been known to help a dog that has been through a traumatic experience.

An Integrative Veterinary Care article notes that play therapy is one way to help a dog that has suffered from a trauma. This simply means giving the traumatized dog a space in which they can play with other animals, as well as toys that bring comfort and joy.

A dog that has suffered from a trauma should also be given a balanced diet that includes omega 3 fatty acids. Herbal treatments for anxiety and pheromone products can help calm an anxious pup as well. And of course, it is vital that a dog suffering from PTSD receives lots of love and affection. With the proper treatment, a dog’s reactions can be greatly reduced, if not alleviated entirely.

Fortunately, the pet market has plenty options for pet owners looking for products that address anxiety. Here are a few examples of products that may help owners calm and soothe nervous pets:

 

​FoodScience Corp.’s Pet Naturals of Vermont Calming XL and Calming for Medium & Large Dogs. The superior calming formulas, designed for dogs that face everyday stress from environmental issues, are specifically suited for dogs that are bigger and stronger and, therefore, need added support in a larger chew. Each formulas is designed for bigger dogs so that customers will get more effective help while using a smaller number of soft chews at a time.

 

​ThunderWorks’ ThunderEase product is designed to decrease fear, anxiety and stress in cats and dogs. ThunderEase replicates feline and canine pheromones, naturally providing a sense of comfort and security during a wide variety of stressful occasions and situations. The pheromones are effective in treating uneasiness in a new home or environment, fear of loud noises such as thunder or fireworks, urine spraying and scratching, stress caused by change, multiple-cat tension, anxiety when visiting a veterinarian’s office or while boarding, and more. The line includes diffuser kits, refills and sprays for dogs and cats, and collars for dogs.

 

Prana Pets’ CBD Oil for Pets is a safe, gentle and nutritive cannabidiol (CBD) supplement for pets of all ages, according to the company. It is designed to stimulate healthy digestion and appetite, help with inflammation and pain throughout the body, relieve nausea and other digestive problems, address anxiety, nervousness and stress, and more. The highly concentrated formula contains 350mg of CBD per 15ml bottle. 

 

Pet Releaf's Edibites (CBD treats for dogs) are available in Regular Edibites, which are meant for small to medium size dogs. Large Breed Edibites are recommended for large breed dogs and provide double the amount of CBD per treat. Edibites provide an immune boost from the CBD; they also provide many other health benefits from the added whole food ingredients. There are no 12-syllable words in any Edibites ingredients, according to a company promise to consumers and retailers. Edibites aims to offer organic, whole food, human-grade ingredients, said company officials.

 

Petmate’s CALMZ Anxiety Relief System for dogs combines high-tech innovation with acupressure in a non-invasive, drug-free treatment that soothes common anxiety that often arises as a result of thunderstorms, fireworks, encounters with strangers, travel, separation and loud noises. The system comes complete with an adjustable Comfort Fit Vest that cradles a device over specific acupressure points on a dog’s spine. When the device is activated, the NeuroSync Technology takes over. Dogs will hear and feel a therapeutic blend of classical music, tones and vibration to ease anxiety.  

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