PTSD in dogs

Mid pant nerves; she stopped panting to listen to footsteps.

Elsa had her recheck last Thursday and received a 4 paws up from her Veterinarian.  Thankfully this whole mouth/face thing is over with; although she will be a long while to completely heal her mouth.  She is feeling much better and is back to herself, almost.  

PTSD - Post traumatic stress disorder.  

About a week before Elsa's recheck, I was anxious to have a look at where her tooth had been removed.  As I went to lift up her lip I noticed that she had some anxiety about it.  I quickly changed my mission into a nice short gum massage and a snuggle.  She has PTSD over the mouth pain that she suffered from this whole thing.  I believe that most of the issues came from being at the emergency Vet. that first day.  I was not happy with the attention that Elsa got and I know that they opened her mouth way too many times, just looking.  

So we are working on good mouth things.  Since Elsa was a very little puppy I have worked on her mouth.  It started with a tooth that was not coming in correctly which meant that I was in her mouth all the time.  From that we went to mouth massaging, teeth brushing and scraping.  She has never minded me in there at all, until now. 

All dogs are different and each will response and react to stimulus individually.  This means that some dogs will let things slide; not giving much concern to anything.  While dogs like Elsa who are extremely intense with a heightened awareness; will not let things go unnoticed.  Things that happen in life have very different lasting impact on each individual dog.  

Her issue is a small one but it is there so I will work on it.  She doesn't act out or anything; it is more a feel and her eyes that tells me she is a bit concerned.  With some great things happening as far as her mouth we will be desensitizing and counter-conditioning.

desensitize - introduction of triggers that cause unwanted response at low level then slowly increasing .    

Counter-conditioning - conditioning a positive response to a particular stimulus where a negative response once was with the use of  'good things.'  

This is where the massage comes in first; short and gentle gum massage followed by treats immediately.  Maybe a quick tooth brush with coconut oil which Elsa loves.  

Highly concerned ears.

We will also be working on her PTSD with the Vet.  Elsa has always been excited to be at the Vets and would follow along happily if taken to the back.  Not anymore.  Since this last ordeal linked to  pain she had her tail tucked as far as it could go for much of her visit.  She still had some wags for the techs and vet on greeting but the tail went under when they wanted to look at her mouth.

I hate to see this but it is very, very typical.  I don't know too many dogs who like to go to the vet after having to stay for a procedure.  Linked with the pain and the stay; Elsa is now concerned about the Vets.  I discussed this with my Vet and told him I'd be bringing Elsa over often to sit in the waiting room.  He then said "sit, have a coffee and ask the girls up front to give her treats."  I like my new vet a lot.  

Elsa's behavior would be classified as "great" from post people.  She is no where near as freaked out as Tilley and Luke use to be.  Luke's response was to be as scary as possible to keep everyone away.  This of course scared everyone and I had to do a lot of extensive canine behavior explanation so that the techs and Vets understood what was going on.  Once he was in the room he was his usually pussy cat self.  Tilley was so afraid to be left at the vets that she very clearly wanted to crawl inside of me.  She sat quietly trembling; clamoring on me and trying to get out the door.  Elsa's anxiety behavior now would be unnoticeable to others.  But I know my girl and I want to help her with any anxiety that she has.   

We will keep the visits short and very positive.  Maybe I'll even take her into an examining room and hang out for a while.  Of course it must remain upbeat and positive for counter-conditioning.  It must also be kept very short time wise; building with the success of changed response.  

Elsa got up on the counter immediately after we left the examining room.  She is very conditioned to treats coming from behind certain counters.  

Treats please.  :)

Elsa adores most people.  She is highly forgiving so this is just a tiny bump as far as PTSD, pain and trust, but it is there.  We will be working on it.