Canine Mental Health: Do Human Diagnoses Make Sense?
Although her Lyme disease test came back negative, she is just sleepy and listless day after day.
She doesn't seem interested in food, and doesn't even want to destroy her stuffed squirrel anymore.
Sadie seems to tremble and shake during thunderstorms, and her tail is glued between her legs when new people come to the house.
When her owner tries to coax her out from under the furniture, she drools and jumps up, despite not doing this when strangers aren't around.
Mollie paces, licks her paws repeatedly, and seems to sniff at the front door then all the shoes in the shoe rack then the front door again.
If she gets interrupted, she start whines and pulls to go back to her routine.
Clinical depression, anxiety, which include separation anxiety, noise anxiety and social anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder are all bona fide canine health concerns worthy of veterinary care.
While it may seem odd to think of a dog as being able to suffer from these illnesses, remember that brain chemistry plays an important role in mood and behavior.
Dogs' brains are set up similarly to a human's brain in terms of the electrical impulses and chemistry responsible for certain functions.
This is why the drugs used to combat mental illness in people are often used on dogs showing similar signs of brain chemistry problems.
That's right, Prozac for your pooch! Common Conditions: • Depression.
In the Maggie's case, above, depression might be suspected after medical causes were ruled out.
Depression in dogs presents with apathy, loss of appetite, fatigue or listlessness, loss of interest in formerly pleasant activities, and in some cases constipation.
General anxiety or stress overload include excessive drooling, shivering, moaning, panting, whining or acting "frozen" or unwilling to move.
There are three main types of anxiety that are common in dogs: separation anxiety, in which dogs become destructive and may even soil the home or owner's belongings when left alone.
Noise anxiety impacts dogs exposed to loud noises such as thunderstorms, fire works and traffic noises.
These dogs will try to escape and often panic and run in the opposite direction, bolting out of houses or away from their owners.
Social anxiety shows up as anxious behavior (shivering, drooling, tail between the legs, etc) when around new people or unfamiliar situations.
This typically affects dogs that were not well socialized as puppies.
• Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Dogs who have been abused or have experienced severe trauma, such as loss of their owners, or dogs used in military combat experiences can develop PTSD, just like people.
A Multi-Step Approach If Maggie, Sadie or Mollie's problems sound familiar, the time to act is now.
While canine mental health problems are not typically fatal, they are serious and can worsen or become real behavioral nightmares to manage if steps are not taken to address them quickly.
In addition, early diagnosis and treatment will alleviate discomfort and restore quality of life for your dog.
Step 1: enlist your vet's help in ruling out medical problems such as thyroid issues or other diseases that can manifest with behavioral symptoms.
Provide your vet with as clear a picture of Duke's behavior as possible including when it began and how it has changed over time.
Your vet may suggest running some tests, such as blood work or thyroid panels.
Step 2: Once you have a diagnosis, educate yourself.
There are many resources both on the Internet and in print on all of the canine mental health concerns discussed here.
Learn about the treatments options and be informed about the pros and cons of all the different treatments available.
Step 3: Consider medications carefully.
Your vet may recommend medications to help Maggie maintain a positive mood or to help Sadie relax.
Be sure to ask questions about side effects and voice any and all concerns you may have.
Also ask you vet about any risks of not using medication - be sure to get the full picture before making any decisions.
Step 4: Explore dietary changes.
Again do your research and seek input from your vet.
Explore whether lower or higher protein would be helpful for Mollie's condition, or if a trial on a specialized diet might be recommended.
Step 5: Consider hiring a trainer.
A balanced approach using behavior modification along with medications and lots of loving support and patience may help your dog move through this tough spot and find his way back to being his playful, happy old self.