Post-Traumatic Stress in Animals

According to Rousseau (2019), trauma represents exposure to experiences or situations that are emotionally painful and distressing, that overwhelm a person’s ability to adapt or cope, and over which they feel powerless. One common anxiety disorder that results from trauma is Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Symptoms of PTSD include: flashbacks, nightmares, hostility, difficulty sleeping, etc. Some people who get PTSD usually experienced trauma from child abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, an accident, a death of a loved one, or war. Since countless people experience PTSD, an interesting topic to examine would be the chance of animals also suffering PTSD. For many individuals, their pets are a member of their family. Many people adopt their pets from shelters, sometimes rescuing them from abusive owners. The trauma animals experience from physical abuse is similar to that of humans. So, can they develop Post-Traumatic Stress symptoms like humans as well?

Kumar (2017) discusses PTSD in her cat Lola. In May of 2017 in Afghanistan, a tanker truck was bombed. The attack claimed more than 150 lives and injured at least 700 others. The impact of the explosion was felt several miles away, breaking windows and cracking ceilings. 20 minutes after the explosion, Lola was hiding. For the next week, Lola was edgy. She was startled by small sounds and she would follow the author everywhere. Lola would wail when Kumar left the house and be clingy when she returned. She started eating less and losing weight. According to Kumar (2017), the U.S. military has seen this reaction to stress in its working dogs. About 5 percent of the dogs that have served in Afghanistan and Iraq suffer from “canine PTSD,” making some dogs aggressive, timid, or unable to do their jobs.

Romm (2016) discusses Elsom, a chimpanzee who experienced PTSD. Elsom’s mother died with he was 13. At age 15, he suffered a serious injury to his arm. He disappeared for a few months afterward and isolated himself from his community. Upon his return, he was different. He was easily agitated and angry. He was more fearful and had difficulty sleeping. Romm (2016) states that animal mental illness can be triggered by many of the same factors that unleash mental illness in humans, including the loss of family or companions, loss of freedom, stress, trauma, and abuse.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is an awful illness that some people deal with. They are forced to relive whatever trauma they experienced through different psychological symptoms. It is evident, through many articles like the ones mentioned above, that animals can indeed suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress just like humans. Imagine a mental illness so powerful that it has the power to affect both humans and animals. That is the impact of Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome.


Kumar, R. (2017, July 08). Can animals suffer from PTSD? Retrieved from

Romm, C. (2016, May 05). Animals Can Get PTSD, Too. Retrieved from

Rousseau, Danielle, PhD (2019, April 28). [Module 4 Lecture]. Boston University

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