Even War Dogs Get PTSD
BBC News US & CANADA
4 August 2010 Last updated at 21:24 ET
A military dog named Gina is recovering from post-traumatic stress disorder after a six-month tour in Iraq, where she conducted door-to-door searches.
A veterinarian diagnosed the dog with PTSD, which some experts say can affect animals in a similar way to humans.
The two-year-old dog returned home to Peterson Air Force base in the US state of Colorado one year ago terrified, skittish and fearful.
But Gina is close to a full recovery, kennel master Sgt Eric Haynes says.
Sgt Haynes takes care of about 18 dogs on the military base but says he has never seen "any dogs with issues this extreme".
"She was terrified all the time. She wouldn't go in and out of buildings," he said.
PTSD, which the military characterises as a condition that develops after a life-threatening trauma, has not been researched in animals as thoroughly as in humans. But some experts say animals can experience a form of it.
"There is a condition in dogs which is almost precisely the same, if not precisely the same, as PTSD in humans," Tufts University animal behaviour specialist Nicholas Dodman told the AP news agency.
And Gina was displaying symptoms of PTSD until just a few months ago.
Upon arriving home from Iraq, Sgt Haynes says the dog frequently crouched low to the ground and would lock her legs. She was also afraid of loud noises and would regularly turn her head to check if anyone or anything was lurking behind her.
But Sgt Haynes says Gina is turning around with the help of proper recovery exercises.
"She isn't fully recovered, but she's doing really well now. She's been re-certified and is performing operational duties again."
Several bags of treats, walks around the base, interacting with strangers and a slow reintroduction of loud noises have helped to rebuild the dog's confidence, says Sgt Haynes.
But Sgt Haynes does not expect to send Gina back to Iraq any time soon.
Since catching the attention of the media this week, Sgt Haynes says he has received approximately 60-70 e-mails a day from people around the world trying to adopt Gina.