Dogs, too, show mental scars from Japan's 2011 disaster

October 12, 2012

By NAOYA KON/ Staff Writer

Dogs rescued from the disaster zone in the Tohoku region are exhibiting significant signs of long-term stress and psychological trauma, a study has shown.

Scientists at Azabu University examined homeless dogs whose owners either died or fled and found the dislocation caused by the quake, tsunami and nuclear disaster has affected the dogs' psyche.

"The disaster abruptly disrupted the dogs' ties with humans and placed them in a chaotic social environment," said Kazutaka Mogi, an associate professor of companion animal research at the university. "That deepened the dogs' psychological damage."

The team examined 25 dogs from two environments. The test sample comprised dogs found living in badly hit areas of Fukushima Prefecture. The control set comprised ownerless dogs from a pet pound in Kanagawa Prefecture, some distance from the disaster zone, before the disaster.

Urine cortisol levels, key indicators of stress, were five to 10 times higher in the Fukushima dogs than in the control sample, a difference that persisted 10 weeks into the study.

The dogs from Fukushima Prefecture also showed lower trainability and less attachment to their caretakers, the scientists said.

The results were published Oct. 11 in Scientific Reports, a British scientific journal.

By NAOYA KON/ Staff Writer
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A dog recovered from the disaster zone, typical of those that show measurable long-term trauma (Provided by Azabu University)

A dog recovered from the disaster zone, typical of those that show measurable long-term trauma (Provided by Azabu University)

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  • A dog recovered from the disaster zone, typical of those that show measurable long-term trauma (Provided by Azabu University)

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