Should You Worry About Your Dogs Mental Health?

This might not be the question you, or many others are asking – but perhaps it should be. 

The answer: Yes! Absolutely! 

Owners should be aware of the many different mental and emotional struggles that dogs face every day. Above all else, owners should learn how to help them! 

I did some research and broke down the basics for you. However, if your discover your dog has a mental illness, it’s important for you to do specific research to help their specific problem.  

Dogs vs Humans

Apart from the wagging tail, the body of fur, and being the most adorable creatures on the planet – dogs and humans still share many similarities. 

For instance, did you know that dogs share diseases with us? Not just physical – but mental too! The difference is in how we show them.

Humans are smart, developed, and sophisticated mammals. We have an understanding of our brain, and the intricacies of our mental health are astounding. All of this is just fancy talk for: if humans don’t want you to know anything is wrong – you might have a hard time spotting it. 

There are some mental struggles that humans can mask and there are some we can’t. However, for dogs, this isn’t the case. Dogs don’t know that hiding their symptoms is an option. So, first and foremost, if your dog is running around, playing, and just being himself – he’s not secretly depressed – so don’t worry!   

Most Common Problems

The most common mental struggles that dogs face are anxiety, depression, and obsessive compulsive disorder. (Bet you weren’t expecting that last one!)

These can take many different forms in dogs, but as mentioned earlier – there are ways to spot them. 

Loss of appetite 

Low Energy Levels 

Isolating themselves from family (human or other dogs) 

  • Anxiety: 

Shaking

Attempting to run-away

Excessive Paw Licking

Hiding

  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: 

Self-harm

Repetitive Behavior

Disinterest in Playing

Now, a lot of these symptoms cross-over with other physical diseases that appear in dogs. So, before you panic over whether-or-not your dog is OCD – get a second opinion. Your vet will be able to run a number of tests to rule out anything else before you have to worry about your dog’s mental state. 

Causes Of The Problem

Mental struggles can appear in dogs for a number of different reasons. In some cases, the dog might have had some troubling experiences with previous owners. For example, when I was younger, my family rescued a lovable bichon named Maggie, who was a breeder at a puppy mill for over six years. 

She suffered from a lot of anxiety while we cared for her. For the first few days she just sat in the corner of our living room unwilling to move. After some time, she improved, but she was always a bit jumpy and never liked to play much. 

This is an example of a very tangible reason for a dog to be suffering from a mental issue. However, sometimes it’s not something that can be avoided. From aging, to a physical illness, to simply being born with it – mental struggles can appear for many different reasons that are out of our control.  

Some Helpful Tips and Treatment

Now to the part everyone’s most eager to read – how to treat it! When it comes to treating a dog’s mental health – just like humans – there is a desire to see improvement right away and for your dog to “return to normal”. 

Do not approach treatment with this mindset! Unlike physical diseases that can be cured in a matter of days or weeks, mental illnesses take time and patience. Above all, you need to remember that your dog is still “normal”. 

Even if it takes some time to get your dog back to the happy and playful pup they once were, doesn’t mean they’re a different dog. You just need to love them a little differently and give them some time. 

  • Exercise

This is one of the best and most efficient ways to start your dog on the road to recovery. Walks, playtime, or even some simple attention can really help your dog to improve their mind and their mood. It might even help your mood too. 

  • Massages

Another thing that humans and dogs share – a love of massages! This is particularly effective for dogs with anxiety. It can help them understand body awareness and ease their suffering. The important thing for you to do is to look up and research how to do this safely and effectively for your dog and their specific symptoms. 

  • Medical Treatment

Believe it or not, there are actual drugs, both natural and prescribed, that can help many different mental illnesses in dogs. Before trying anything though, discuss with your vet what they think might be effective. 

  • Space

This is one of the most important tips that people often forget. When our dog is suffering or in pain – the first thing we want to do is smother them with attention. However, this isn’t always helpful for our furry-little friends. Sometimes, it can actually make matters worse. So be sure to give your dog some space – and allow them to come to you when they’re ready. 

Once again, this is a basic breakdown on what to look for and some ways to help your dog. However, any symptoms you spot or treatments you want to try should first be discussed with your vet. Make sure that your dog isn’t suffering from something that can be easily treated before trying anything else. Above all, just remember that no matter what your dog is going through, a little space and a lot of love can go a long way!