Down with the dogs: The important signs of mental issues in canines
Is your dog acting a little odd as of late? Get to the bottom of it by educating yourself about mental illness in dogs.
We love our doggos just as much as we love any other member of the family. We know their quirks, their favourite thing to do and what makes them tail-wag-worthy excited. If you’ve had your dog since they were a puppy, you would have come to know their character better than anybody else. Even if your dog came into your home as an older rescue dog, we come to know their personalities over time.
So what do we do when we start to notice that our dog’s behaviour is changing? Dogs, just like people, can be susceptible to a variety of mental illnesses including OCD, PTSD, anxiety and depression. Whilst it may seem strange that dogs can have depressive or anxious episodes, we should remember that they also have to interact with the world around them: their environment, their routine and their owners all play a part in their mental wellbeing.
It isn’t only psychological mental illness that can affect dogs, but mental issues such as Altzheimers (canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome) can also become an issue as your dog ages.
As a pet parent, you need to be able to speak for your dog when they can’t tell you what’s wrong. That’s why it is so incredibly important to monitor your dog’s behaviour and be able to instantly pick up when something is a little off.
Signs your dog may be mentally unwell
Older dogs have an excuse to start sleeping a little more than usual - they’ve had years of activity and excitement to tucker them out. If your puppy, however, starts to sleep excessively then that could be cause for concern. A drastic change in their sleeping pattern can be indicative of depression. It could also be a sign of other physical illnesses like diabetes. If there has been an obvious loss or change in your dog’s life, sleeping too much may be a sign that they are depressed.
Did you know that dogs can be diagnosed with autism? The signs of autism in dogs and humans are very similar, one of them being repetitive behaviours. Dogs that repeat behaviours like pacing, spinning or going around in circles could be autistic, although this can only be diagnosed by a vet. Whilst these behaviours aren’t necessarily destructive, they can be a signal of distress.
Bear in mind that these kinds of behaviours can also be a result of a poor home environment and low stimulation.
When dogs have a wound or skin irritation, they will lick. If you notice your dog is excessively licking or grooming, you need to take them to a vet. If your vet determines that there is no wound, your dog may be over-grooming due to anxiety or compulsive disorder. Be aware that an anxious or extremely bored dog will lick the same spot until the skin becomes raw and damaged, so it is important to take action.
Loss of appetite
There are few dogs who won’t jump at the chance to wolf down their favourite dinner. Of course, there are dogs who have smaller appetites than others but this is something you would have picked up from the get-go. If your dog has suddenly lost interest in eating, this may be an indicator of depression or anxiety.
Excessive tail chasing
It can be super cute to watch your dog chasing its tail round and round. Sometimes they really do love doing it! However, if your dog is chasing their tail so often that they ignore other pleasurable activities like eating or playing catch with you, there could be an issue. This is a symptom of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) or an anxiety disorder.
We’ve said it before, you know your dog better than anybody else. If your dog’s behaviour starts to shift from its normal disposition, depression or anxiety could be the underlying issue. Try and backtrack to see if there may have been a distressing change or loss in their lives that could be bringing these issues on.
Just like humans do, dogs can get into a habit of zoning out when they don’t feel themselves. If you find that your dog is staring into space with a blank look behind its eyes, this could be a symptom of canine cognitive dysfunction. As we mentioned earlier, this is a type of mental deterioration similar to Altzheimers.
Zoning out may also look like your dog forgetting who their friends are or becoming more irritable towards activities they used to love like cuddling or playtime.
What you can do
The only person who can diagnose your dog with a mental issue is your vet. As soon as you start noticing a pattern of odd or worrying behaviour, get in touch with your vet. They may offer medication or perhaps refer you to an animal behaviourist.
Yours in tail wag worthy insurance,