Like Humans, Animals can Experience PTSD

by: FHE Admin

Earlier this month the New York Times posted the article “After Duty, Dogs Suffer like Soldiers,” which speaks to a high evidence of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) symptoms observed in U.S. military dogs. The article states that an estimated “5 percent of the approximately 650 military dogs deployed by American combat forces are developing canine PTSD.” There are some fascinating parallels to draw when considering human soldiers returning from duty— and in both cases, SE® can be an important form of reconnection.

In his writings about Somatic Experiencing®, Peter A. Levine, PhD discusses at length his observations of animals in the wild, noting their innate ability to recover from life-threatening situations. He concludes that their behavior sheds light on humans' own biological healing process. Peter writes: “The key to healing traumatic symptoms in humans lies in our being able to mirror the fluid adaption of wild animals.” He's referring to how animals avoid traumatization when reacting to life-threatening situations.

As we look at how PTSD develops in military dogs, we see the incredibly traumatic effects war can have on all those within its grip. When faced with the continual and oppressive trauma of war, military animals (which have been trained not to engage their most basic and instinctive defensive responses of fight/flight/freeze), can become completely overwhelmed and unable to heal on their own. We see very similar effects in their human companions facing PTSD.

The current return of U.S. troops from Iraq expedites the need to further educate professionals and the public, providing awareness and sensitivity to the needs of our military personnel and their loved ones. In the following free 2-minute video, Peter A. Levine, PhD, provides valuable guidance to military families and friends, as well as to active soldiers and veterans themselves. Peter provides insight on making sense of the myriad feelings, sensations, and thoughts that so often follow war-time experiences.

We hope this video can bring the promise of a positive and hopeful recovery to our military personnel, K9s included. We are so grateful and proud of you all.

Happy Holidays,


Ray DVD setFor a much more detailed video on the subject, you can purchase this 5-DVD set. You'll see Peter A. Levine's application of Somatic Experiencing techniques with Ray, a young marine who had been severely injured by two explosive devices (IEDs). He was subsequently diagnosed with both severe PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). He was brought to see Peter after developing chronic pain, Tourette's-like convulsions, cognitive problems, and insomnia due to night terrors. Ray rediscovers his capacity for self-awareness as Peter gently and elegantly guides him towards self-regulation and reintegration into peacetime society.

For this and other books and videos on Somatic Experiencing, please visit our Bookstore at:


Leave a Reply

In Crisis?