Military Dogs Given Xanax to Treat PTSD

U.S. military dogs are often tasked with sniffing out mines, clearing buildings, and tracking down enemies during war. They are valued soldiers in the U.S. Military, and like any soldier, some can’t escape the horrors of war when they return home. A new report shows that 5% of the military dogs that were deployed with American combat forces are now suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The New York Times reports that more than 650 military dogs have been deployed with U.S. combat forces in recent years.

Army Lt. Col. Richard A. Vargus, chief of the law enforcement branch at CENTCOM, said:

“It really is difficult, because once the dog experiences these traumatic explosions, it’s the same as the troops. Some dogs move right through it and it doesn’t affect them. Some dogs, it takes some retraining, and some dogs just refuse to work.”

According to the Huffington Post, dogs that suffer PTSD, like soldiers with the same affliction, show various traits. Some will become aggressive. Some will avoid buildings that they previously felt safe in. Dr. Walter F. Burghardt Jr., chief of behavioral medicine at the Daniel E. Holland Military Working Dog Hospital, said that some dogs will stop doing the jobs that they were trained to do, which can put soldiers in harms way.

Burghardt Jr. said:

“If the dog is trained to find improvised explosives and it looks like it’s working, but isn’t, it’s not just the dog that’s at risk. This is a human health issue as well.”

The military has taken serious interest in the mental health of its military dogs, which shows just how important these dogs are to the U.S. Military. Bill Childress, manager of the Marine Corps working dog program, told the Los Angeles Times:

“Electronic equipment is great in the laboratory, but out on the battlefield, you can’t beat the dogs.”

The NY Times reports that some dogs have been treated for PTSD with Xanax and other anti-anxiety drugs. Dogs that do not recover immediately are sent to their home base for a few months for longer treatment. If they still don’t recover, they are retired from military service.

Are you surprised that dogs can suffer PTSD?