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What You Need To Know About Canine PTSD Before Your Board Your Dog

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Research has found that dogs can have PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). Dogs with this condition tend to be fearful and have anxiety in certain situations, such as being in unfamiliar surroundings. This can present a problem for you if you need to put your dog in a kennel or boarding facility, especially if your dog's PTSD is due to an attack from another dog or trauma your dog experienced in a shelter. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to protect your dog from experiencing flashbacks and PTSD symptoms when you have to leave it at local dog kennels.

The most important thing you can do is to understand your dog's PTSD and how to treat it appropriately. Here's what you need to know. 

Canine PTSD

Canine PTSD isn't very different from PTSD experienced by humans. Research has found that the amygdala, a small portion in the brain, is responsible for emotions and memory. The cells of this part of the brain have 5HT2C receptors that bind and respond to serotonin.

Many people consider serotonin to be a substance that aids in good feelings and emotions. However, since the amygdala is responsible for memory, increased levels of serotonin cause short-term memory to be consolidated into long-term memory. 

The amygdala's heightened sensitivity to serotonin and the way memory consolidation occurs can cause what is known as flashbacks, which makes memories of the entire traumatic event feel as if they just happened recently. However, research shows that this only occurs when the person or animal is under stress, such as with PTSD. 

When something triggers memories of traumatic events, the memories feel more intense due to this phenomenon. For example, if your dog was attacked by another dog, it may have flashbacks of the attack when confronted with a similar dog in a kennel. 

Treatment options

Now that you have an understanding of how serotonin levels can cause flashbacks, it's important to avoid giving your dog medication, food, and supplements that increases his or her serotonin levels. Some over-the-counter and prescription medication that treat aggression do so by increasing serotonin. Speak with your veterinarian about what to avoid giving your dog to keep his or her serotonin levels minimal.

Fortunately, there are treatment options available. 

  • Medication. It may be in your best interest to start your dog on psychotropic medication, such as serotonin blockers and/or antidepressants that work by inhibiting how the amygdala uses serotonin, especially leading up to and including the time he or she will be boarded at a kennel. Psychotropic drugs work by altering the levels of chemicals in the brain that are responsible for mood and behavior, such as serotonin. Since this may take some time for your dog to adjust to the medication, it's a good idea to start your dog on a medication regimen before you place it in a kennel. Your veterinarian will give you the appropriate time frame for the drug he or she will prescribe. It's also important that the kennel staff continue the doses to keep your pet mentally stable. 
  • Behavior modification. Research shows that rough-and-tumble play, as part of behavior modification therapy, can replace bad memories with good memories.By playing roughly with your dog in a controlled environment, it can show him or her that not every situation will result in a bad outcome. Over time, the memories of good outcomes will hopefully replace the bad memories of the traumatic event(s) that caused your dog to have PTSD. 

Before you leave your dog in a kennel, it's important to let the staff know that your dog has PTSD and what types of treatments are necessary to keep your dog from experiencing flashbacks while in their facility. 


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