Anxiety, Depression, and Stress: A Look into Dogs’ Mental Health
While dogs are proven to alleviate mental health disorders in humans, these furry creatures also suffer from psychological problems.
Research reveals that the canine brain closely resembles the human brain. A specific area of the brain called thecaudate nucleus can be found in both humans and canines.
Surrounded by dopamine receptors, the caudate plays a crucial role in regulating positive emotions such as anticipation, pleasure, love, and attachment. Scientists discovered that the same set of things stimulates activity in the caudate of both these species. That suggests that dogs experience emotions in the same way humans do.
Because of the similarities in the cognitive process, it is no surprise that dogs also endure the same line of psychological problems that people face. Surprisingly, just like human beings, canines also experience anxiety, depression, and compulsive disorder.
Separation Anxiety: The Fear of Being Alone
One of the most common mental issues in pups is separation anxiety. Like humans, these four-legged creatures are afraid of being abandoned or left alone, even for a short period.
Dogs get anxious and upset when they don't see their guardians around. When left to their own devices, canines with separation anxiety exhibit destructive behavior. They show their distress through barking, howling, digging, chewing, and ruining everything in its field of vision. Because of their intense anxiety, dogs even injure themselves in the process of chasing after their loved ones or escaping their cages.
Moreover, dogs with this disorder walk around in straight or circular patterns when separated from their owners. Some furry pets even urinate and defecate because of the psychological stress they are suffering from.
What causes separation anxiety in dogs? This mental illness can be caused by the sudden absence of a household member or a change in a home address. Since they do not understand these human concepts, this is how canines demonstrate their confusion, stress, and aggression towards these sudden changes in their environment.
Dogs also develop this disorder when they have experience permanently abandoned or given to another owner. Just like humans, painful events like this intensify their fears and abandonment issues.
Luckily, there are ways to remedy this mental ailment of canines. Pet owners can employ counterconditioning, wherein they associate positive things to being left on their own. For example, if you're heading to the grocery store, leave your dog with delicious food or its favorite toy. By utilizing this form of association, you reduce the fear and stress they feel when isolated. In severe cases of anxiety, you can enroll your pets in dog training classes for them to overcome this mental disorder with the help of experts.
Depression: Intense Mood Dip
Like humans, dogs also experience bouts of depression. Depressed dogs tend to move sluggishly or spend a long time sleeping. Pets with this mental health condition also prefer hiding behind under the bed or staying in a corner, far from human interaction. When canines are extremely sad, they avoid any physical contact, even with their owners. In extreme cases, dogs with depression experience exhibit loss of appetite.
Depression in canines is often triggered by numerous reasons. One of the most common causes of this mental illness is the demise of a guardian. Dogs experience extreme grief over the loss of an owner, especially when they have formed a close bond with that person. Since they have the same emotions as humans, it's difficult for them to process grief, let alone understand the concept of death.
Another contributing factor to dogs' psychological illness is the mental decline of their guardians. Since they are empathetic creatures, when their owners are depressed, they tend to pick up the same emotions. Seeing their loved ones in pain makes it hard for dogs to function normally as well.
So, how do you treat depression in dogs? Engage them in fun physical activities to keep them energetic, motivated, and entertained. You have to bring back movement and pleasure into their lives, so exposing them to outdoor games and professional training can improve their mental condition. If these methods remain ineffective, there are available medications that can alleviate their depressive episodes. Please consult an expert when choosing this option for your dog.
Compulsive Disorder: Extreme Feelings of Stress
When overwhelmed with stress, dogs succumb to compulsive disorders. Canines tend to get caught in a repetitive pattern which they find hard to break free from. Dogs with compulsive disorders incessantly chase their tales, chew objects, lick their legs, or pace back and forth.
In most cases, specific coping mechanisms of dogs eventually become part of their system. When they perform these obsessive habits, they release endorphins, which reduces the levels of stress they are feeling.
Research shows that this mental disorder is caused by problems in the brain function of dogs. Canines with compulsive disorders have abnormalities in their brain, specifically in the cortico-striatal-thalamic-cortical (CSTC) loop where information is processed and movement is controlled. The problem in their neural pathways keeps dogs stuck in repetitive patterns.
Compulsive disorders can also be triggered by unattended medical problems in canines. They might be experiencing skin allergies, which is why they are constantly scratching and licking themselves. Some dogs might also be suffering from issues with their spine, glands, or nerves.
Whenever you find your dog performing these compulsive habits, redirect your pup's behavior. You can interrupt the pattern by taking your four-legged companion out for a walk, giving it a new chew toy, or anything that could take your pup's mind out of the habit. But if your pet is experiencing severe symptoms of compulsive disorder, you should take it to the doctor. Veterinarians prescribe medications to canines with this medical condition.
While dogs bring happiness to humans, they also succumb to mental health problems. So, it is essential to address the psychological issues that they are suffering from. Of course, dogs can only overcome these difficult challenges with humans by their sides