Helpful Tips For Boarding A Dog With PTSD

Posted on: 28 July 2015

If your dog has PTSD, or you think he might, you may find yourself avoiding going on vacations because you don't want to subject him to being boarded at a dog kennel. Don't. There are a few things you can do to help your anxiety-prone dog with PTSD stay comfortably in a pet boarding facility so you can take a relaxing vacation. Here are a few important things to know and some helpful tips.

Causes 

PTSD can affect all dogs, not just military dogs that were involved in combat missions. Just as with humans, any traumatic experience can cause dogs to have PTSD. A car accident, a fight with another animal, abuse from a human, and neglect are a few examples of what can cause PTSD in dogs.

Signs & triggers

If you aren't sure what happened in your dog's past that has caused PTSD, watch him for signs and triggers and write them down. Then study the list to try to determine what may have happened. Give the list to the boarding facility so they can be aware of what types of situations to avoid.

  • Signs: Dogs with PTSD are sometimes hyper-vigilant of their surroundings. Any changes in their environment may make their temperament change. They may become overly-clingy or aggressive. They may bark, whine, growl, howl, or be completely quiet and timid. Before you leave for your vacation and put your pet in a dog kennel, you'll want to pay close attention to his signs of PTSD so you can inform the kennel staff.
  • Triggers: If your dog seems to act erratically, try to pinpoint what triggers his PTSD reactions. The triggers will likely be reminders that will bring back a flood of imprints and memories from your dog's traumatic experience that caused the PTSD. A dog involved in a car accident may refuse to get near a car. If a dog was abused by an elderly male, it may growl at any elderly male who comes near.

Shelter dogs may have PTSD when they are placed in a dog crate or a facility that reminds them of the shelter they were in. If you rescued your dog from an animal shelter, you'll want to choose a pet boarding facility that does not look or smell like the shelter your dog was in.

Diagnosis & Treatment

Take your dog to the vet for a proper diagnosis of PTSD. In some cases, veterinarians prescribe anti-depressant medication to dogs that suffer from PTSD. Alternative treatments include the use of herbs, pheromone supplements, and food therapy. Ask the veterinarian about calming medication that may be prescribed on a temporary basis in case the boarding facility staff sees your dog acting erratically and aggressively.

According to Jaak Panksepp, an animal psychologist from Washington State University, rough-and-tumble outdoor play has been shown to help dogs with PTSD, even those who were attacked by other animals. The concept is similar to getting back on a horse after it has bucked you off. It's about overcoming your fears and coming to the realization that not every situation is going to have bad results. So get outside and roughhouse with your dog a few minutes each day before you drop him off at the kennel.

Comfort items from your home, such as blankets and toys, may help to keep your dog relaxed while he is at the kennel. However, sometimes things from home can trigger anxiety in pets when they are in an unfamiliar environment. It may be a good idea to take your pet to the kennel for a few days a few weeks prior to your vacation as a trial run.

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