Stories about dogs used in military service, in therapy, search and rescue and protection always interests me. I have written several posts in the past on service dogs. In the December 1, 2011 edition of the New York Times, there is a feature article written by James Dao, on post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that can be experienced by military dogs working on the front lines. The mental strains of combat can affect these four legged soldiers. Some estimate that more than five percent of the deployed 650 military dogs used by the American forces are developing canine PTSD. There are a number of different symptoms shown by dogs with PTSD.
Most military dogs are German shepherds, Belgian Malinois and Labrador retrievers. In this photo, a soldier is working with his yellow Lab (Soldier and his dog). There are about 2,700 working dogs on active United States duty.
There is debate among the veterinarians, dog trainers and behaviour specialists on how to treat PTSD. Behaviour modification therapy and/or drugs are used for treatment. Dogs don't have to be in the military to experience PTSD. It can affect our pets who have experienced traumatic events including car accidents. For those military dogs with PTSD that can't recover, they may be retired or assume different duties. PTSD is a disorder that probably can't be cured. Dr. Nicholas is quoted in the New York Times article as stating it is more about management, dogs never forget.