Friday, January 6, 2012

It doesn't end with war horses

Shades of “war horses” – there are also “war dogs.” And in these enlightened times, the reactions they may exhibit to warfare can now be diagnosed and often treated successfully.

Of course, dogs’ main reaction – “What am I doing here, involved in peoples’ issues?!” – will not be diagnosed. That’s because it’s not in peoples’ interest to free dogs from that reaction – humans long ago decided other animals exist to serve their needs.

Accordingly, “military dogs” deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan are being diagnosed as suffering from “canine post traumatic stress disorder,” or CPTSD. Exposed to gunfire, explosions and other combat-related violence, “war dogs” sniff out mines, track down enemy fighters and clear buildings.

Then, as happened with one dog after a firefight, they may cower under a cot and refuse to come out. That "cowering" dog wasn’t diagnosed with being intelligent or discriminating, as he was – but with CPTSD.

Usually German shepherds, Belgian Melinois and Labrador Retrievers, more than 5 % of the military dogs deployed are developing CPTSD, as James Dao reported in the NYTimes last month, in “After duty, dogs suffer like soldiers.” That can come as no surprise.

Like humans, dogs show different symptoms of CPTSD. The cases that aren't successfully handled through “exercise, play time and gentle obedience training” may get “desensitization counterconditioning” (yes, you read it right) and maybe even anti-panic medications.

The lucky ones are retired from service.


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