Fukushima Dogs Experience Persistent Distress

A paper in Nature Scientific Reports documents that dogs displaced by the Fukushima disaster (March 11 2011) show persistent signs of stress and symptoms of PTSD.

The authors compared dogs displaced by the disaster in Fukushima to abandoned dogs in Kanagawa, a region not affected by the earthquake.

Scientific Reports 2, Article number: 724

Compared to the Kanagawan dogs, the Fukushima group had a persistent state of elevated cortisol levels. Ten weeks after being admitted the Fukushima dogs had cortisol levels 5-10 times higher.

Scientific Reports 2, Article number: 724

They also showed reduced trainability, attachment and separation anxiety. The authors also highlight the fact that Fukushima dogs had lowered trainability and attachment which is also observed in people with PTSD.

Finally it is interesting to note that the Fukushima dogs had lower aggression when compared to the other dogs. This is specially noteworthy considering that shelter associated stress typically manifests itself in increased aggression.

Unfortunately the authors did not explore this difference this apparent paradox. Did the high stress repress this typical response? Is this why some seemingly unaggressive dogs become aggressive once they feel safe in their adopted homes? I think it’s worth investigating.

The paper does point to the persistent negative effects experienced by the Fukushima dogs and the possible need for long-term care and intervention.


Nagasawa M, Mogi K, Kikusui T. (2012) Continued Distress among Abandoned Dogs in Fukushima. Sci Rep. 2012;2:724. doi: 10.1038/srep00724. Epub 2012 Oct 11. OPEN ACCESS



4 thoughts on “Fukushima Dogs Experience Persistent Distress

  1. Pingback: Stress Can Hurt… Literally | Science of Dogs

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