What Scientists Believe About Dogs’ Emotions

Dogs, says the BBC, are the animals humankind domesticated first, and they’re our oldest friends. That friendship goes back at least 11,000 years, and that means humans and dogs have been through a lot together. Surprisingly, it was only in 2020 that professors from Texas A&M University’s Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences school started working on decoding canine PTSD.

While there’s a lot that’s still unknown about it, Dr. Lori Teller says that anywhere from 5% to 17% of dogs will suffer from PTSD in their lifetimes, and it’s not just dogs who have been the victims of abuse, or those who are exposed to stressful situations by their work in the military and law enforcement. PTSD could also develop in dogs who are born into or kept in puppy mills, used as bait or fighting dogs, endure natural disasters, or suffer an attack by a person or another dog.

Experts have described the symptoms that dogs suffering from PTSD might display, and they’ll sound very familiar to anyone who has experience with the human form: It includes things like hypervigilance, avoidance, difficulty sleeping, and aggression. Dogs, Teller says, can be more adept at hiding symptoms, and in some cases, both behavior-based therapies and medications have been found successful in managing canine PTSD.

Teller says there’s still a lot that needs to be learned.

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