When we suffer any kind of emotional trauma, we can thankfully get help. But what about the voiceless who cannot tell you what they’ve been through? Research on treating emotional trauma and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) treatment in animals is lacking mainly because an animal cannot communicate their past suffering. But, pet behaviorists and vets have been successful in treating traumatized pets through various methods.
The causes for emotional trauma and PTSD in animals can range from abuse, poor socialization and sometimes genetics. Emotional trauma can develop behavioral issues like anxiety, depression and phobias in dogs and cats. It might not always be easy to find the cause behind the trauma but behaviorists suggest some methods that can help your pet heal from it.
There are 3 most common types of trauma that are seen in cats and dogs.
Cases of abandonment have increased in the past, especially after the peak COVID period, where many pets were adopted but abandoned once places started opening up. These pets are also known as ‘pandemic pets’. Abandonment can lead to feelings of stress, confusion, helplessness, fear and disorientation. It can also lead to separation anxiety in dogs and cats.
Physical abuse can take a toll on animals just like it can on humans. Such cruelty crushes the spirit of an animal and makes them extremely fearful and underconfident. Cases of physical abuse are common amongst streeties as they are threatened with stones and are deliberately hurt every day. Some pet parents may hit/harm or verbally abuse their pets out of frustration or as a method to train them. Trusting humans after facing physical abuse is very tough for such animals. If they ever get out of such a situation, they require loads of special care and attention to trust humans and feel better again.
- All animals need companionship. Dogs need it more than cats, as dogs are pack animals and love to socialize. When pets are left alone for long periods of time and do not receive any kind of affection, it affects them emotionally and mentally. They have too much pent-up energy and this unutilized energy leads to behavioral problems like aggression.
Signs of emotional trauma in pets:
- Running away
- Excessive vocalization
You may notice these signs when a trigger attempts to interact with your pet. A trigger could be a person, a certain object like a stick or a rod or anything else that has caused trauma to the pet. However, these behaviors may not always stem from trauma. As mentioned earlier, pets can develop anxieties, fears or phobias due to poor socialization when they were younger or due to genetics.
Finding the root cause behind the trauma may be difficult. What’s more important is to not find the cause of trauma but work on helping your pet heal from it.
Treating pets with emotional trauma
PTSD treatment is not always easy since every pet has a different story and their response to trauma may be different as well. But there are some tips and techniques that can help your pet heal from trauma to some extent, a few of them are:
Dedicate a safe space
For a pet who has suffered a lot, a safe space that is meant just for them can mean a lot. Create this safe space by putting a bed, some blankets and their favorite toys in a quiet area of the house. You can even put a blanket over their crate and leave the door open so they can retreat to this place whenever they want.
Give your pet several days to get used to their new environment. Do not introduce new things and new people immediately, you do not want to scare them off. Let your pet set the pace, once your pet has become familiar with your home, you can begin introducing them to new places and people.
Engage in calming activities
- Look up ‘calming music for dogs or cats’ and play that for your pet. This can help relax or calm their nerves. Calming music can also help when you’re away and if your pet has separation anxiety. Massaging your dog’s or cat’s paws with a pain-relieving oil can also relieve anxiety and help you spend some quality time with them.
CannaPaw® Regenerative Therapy & Pain Relief Oil
Wiggles Hemp Seed Oil
Bond over food
Treats can be a very powerful and useful way of influencing behavior and creating a bond with your traumatized pet. Try hand feeding your pet for the first few weeks, this will help them build a positive association with you and gain your trust. Do not force it though, if they’re scared of you, step back, leave the food near them and let them eat it at their will. The key is to let them know that you will not hurt them.
- “A pet who has been through trauma can sometimes get aggressive when approached by humans. Hence, your approach must be confident and encouraging as a traumatized pet may bite out of fear or anxiety” says Kushal Chipkar, Manager, Dog Training at Wiggles.in. A combination of calm and confident energy usually works with traumatized pets. Dogs, especially, do not react well to instability, tension, frustration, anger, sadness, etc. They find confident and calm energy to be trustworthy, so ensure you approach with these feelings.
Do not over sympathize
You need to let your pet know that the bad days are over. Do not keep retelling their past to others and yourself, your pet will wonder why everyone looks at them with sympathy. Surely, they need love and care but instead of over sympathizing and petting them, distract them. Play simple and easy games with them, speak to them often and engage in activities that can build their confidence.
Get on their level
When you’re talking to them or trying to play with them, get down to their eye level. Standing over them and making any kind of movement can scare them, meeting eye-to-eye in such situations helps.
Reach out for help
- Consult a certified pet behaviorist or vet for therapy options to treat trauma in dogs or cats. A behaviorist can help desensitize the pet by exposing them to situations in a non-threatening environment and helping them overcome their fear. This desensitization is usually practiced with treats, praise or play. If a pet’s condition is too intense, a vet may need to step in and prescribe medication for anxiety or depression.
Our pet behaviorists are here to help you out
Caring for and helping community animals
All our streeties have faced some kind of trauma in their lives, be it physical abuse, negligence or abandonment. This trauma leaves them feeling extremely fearful. As a community, we can ease this pain by showing some love and care. Here are some ways you can help your community animals:
Feed them on a daily basis
- Encourage your community members to take turns and feed community animals on a daily basis. Keep multiple clean and fresh water bowls in the surrounding areas. You can also spread seeds and grains like millet, dal, and rice on your balcony or terrace to feed the birds.
Happy and full tummies at Make New Life NGO
Wiggles.in visited Make New Life NGO and the furries there filled our hearts with a newfound happiness
Help them get adopted
If you find any abandoned or lost pet, put out a word on social media and pet-friendly groups. Help the pet find their home or get adopted again.
Help the injured and abused
If you come across any injured or abused streetie, please take them to the nearest vet or share a picture/video with an NGO or fellow animal lovers. Surely, someone will help out. Once they have healed, encourage adoption by sharing pictures/videos and their story.
Speak up for them
If you find anyone abusing an animal in any way, try your best to stop it right away. Talk to the perpetrator and explain the pain their actions inflict on the voiceless. If they are beyond reasoning, report the act to the police. All kinds of animal cruelty are against the law and punishable.
Makeshift shelters built with the help of the community can act as a safe haven for the streeties. They can retreat to this place during harsh weather conditions. You can keep beds and blankets in the shelter for extra comfort.
Help out local NGOs
Volunteer at your local shelter and help them out with their daily activities. Spread the word of the good work they are doing and encourage other community members to participate.
Love and care are all one needs to lead a happy life, be it humans or animals. Your thoughtful gestures can change an animal’s entire life. Do you have a story like this, where your love and care have helped a furry friend? Tell us! We would love to feature it in our #LoveIsInTheCare campaign.
Team Wiggles has started an initiative called #BondedByBlood through which we are trying to create an online repository of ready pet donors. Register your pet today & save a life tomorrow.
*Disclaimer: This blog is vet-approved and includes original content which is compiled after thorough research and authenticity by our in-house team of vets and content experts. It is always advisable to consult a veterinarian before you try any products, pet food or any kind of treatment/medicines on your pets, as each pet is unique and will respond differently.