POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS is most well-known as a disorder frequently experienced by elderly felines and canines however any survivor of trauma may experience the symptoms.
Little is known about why some experience symptoms from mild to debilitating while others can be unscathed.
Extreme fear often results in altered perceptions of the event.
Triggers associated with the fearful event do not engage the hippocampus, which is usually responsible for memory, but rather the amygdala, which is responsible for emotions.
Strong flashbacks to the original panic state can be instantaneous, and are not under the pet’s conscious control.
Just as you’re unable to control the contraction or dilation of your pupils when you feel strong emotions, a cat or dog experiencing Post Traumatic Stress symptoms such as this are unable to stop feeling the way they do in the moment.
Fear Fright and Bite
The triggers for this flashback state may not make logical sense.
Scents, textures, certain movements, and even the time of day can all trigger this instant fear reaction.
While some triggers are easily explained like the first time I carry a rolled up newspaper into a room many dogs drop to the floor or a cat runs away and hides if he smells alcohol on a visitor’s breath, others are less easy to tease apart and may never be completely identified.
I knew a dog several years ago that would occasionally yelp when he was touched, but the vet could find nothing physically wrong and his quick fear reaction never manifested twice when the same area of his body was touched.
Another dog I am aware of will begin trembling for no apparent reason several times a week, hiding under the bed and occasionally voiding her bladder in terror.
Whilst trauma can have lasting consequences due to its huge impact on the way the brain develops and processes information, patient behavioural modification and an environment of safety can have equally powerful effects.
Finally I would mention that about 12 years ago I saw a Rottweiler tied to a post attached to a restaurant on the beach.
Some youths were throwing sand and stones at her. I put a stop to that and cut the rope and took her home she is called Sheba.
In the first six years Sheba never wagged her tail and when my wife or I asked her to come to us she could not do so without crawling and urinating.
Now she is 14 so loving, happy, content, and wags her tail whenever we talk to her. Many times I said to my wife ´One day she will wag her tail´.