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Dogs & Mental Health

It is a proven fact that pets, especially dogs, reduce stress, anxiety, depression and ease loneliness. Playing with a pet elevates levels of serotonin and helps add structure and routine. Here is everything you need to know about dogs and mental health.

*We are not mental health professionals. Please consult a licensed professional if your dog shows signs of any mental illness featured in this post.*

Therapy Dogs

Therapy dogs help people mentally, emotionally and physically and are typically used as an therapeutic attempt for people with depression and soldiers at war feel better and less lonely. There are two types of therapy dogs: therapeutic dogs and animal assisted therapy dogs. It’s important to know that therapy dogs are NOT the same thing as service dogs since service dogs are trained to specialize in a specific field of therapy while therapy dogs are used just as their mere presence.

Therapy dogs help thousands of people a year manage their mental and physical well-being. However we all seem to forget…

Dogs can suffer from mental health conditions as well, self-harm and depression being especially common among them.

As a matter of fact, mental disorders on small dogs occur more frequently than in larger breed dogs. Research shows that the smaller a dog is, the more hyperactive and attention seeking it will be, possibly even suffering from CCD.

Canine Compulsive Disorder (CCD)

Canine Compulsive Disorder, or CCD, is most common in smaller dog breeds such as pomeranians and corgis because they usually have attention issues. CCD occurs when dogs are ignored after getting spoiled with love and attention.

Common symptoms of CCD:

  • Tail-chasing
  • Excessive licking
  • Any other repetitive actions/behaviors

CCD could also develop due to lack of exercise or boredom/lack of excitement. Treatment varies on the dog and can range from simply giving your dog more attention all the way to having to use prescribed human medication such as serotonergic and anti-anxiety drugs.

Small Dog Syndrome (SDS)

Small dog syndrome, or SDS, are a group of behaviors that are displayed by small dog breeds, oftentimes male, and typically happen because the small dog feels as if it is inferior to larger dogs.

Common symptoms of SDS:

  • Jumping too much and being too hyper
  • Climbing over random things more than it usually would
  • Begging for food
  • Barking hysterically
  • Reluctance to move or allow humans to have space
  • Aggression toeards other dogs

The treatment method is simple and is just to treat your larger and smaller dogs the same. Show your little one that they matter to you.

Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety are behaviors motivated by anxiety that occur exclusively in the owner’s physical or virtual absence. 20-40% of dogs suffer from this issue at least twice in their life time, making separation anxiety the most common psychological threat to dogs.

Common symptoms of seperation anxiety in dogs:

  • Chewing
  • Excessive barking
  • Clawing/trying to escape

Causes of separation anxiety in dogs are situational and could be due to loneliness after death or even just being in a different room than the owner. Treatment varies from dog to dog. The most affective one would be to create a distance between you and the dog so that it doesn’t get completely reliant on you. Another would be giving them anti-anxiety medication, however it’s important to consult with a licensed profession liscensed professional first.

Depression

Much like humans, depression in dogs varies from dog to dog. The common core symptom is anhedonia, or the decrease or loss of interest in otherwise pleasurable activities. However, for dogs depression is measured within pleasurable activities such as food or sexual activity.

Signs of depression in dogs:

  • Weight loss & loss of appetite
  • Sleeping all the time
  • Loss of interest
  • Excessive paw licking
  • Avoidance/hiding

Treatment varies and should be consulted with a veterinarian.

Self-Harm

*THIS IS NOT TO GET CONFUSED WITH REGULAR ITCHING/SCRATCHING.*

Self harm is mostly common in neglected or abused dogs. The signs range from chewing its tail all the way to biting hard enough to hurt itself. Self harm in dogs is typically a result of depression or trauma of abuse. It’s tough to find an accurate suicide rate since most times of dogs feel suicidal, they would choose to starve themselves until they eventually pass away, run in front of a car, etc., since they obviously can’t take measures like a human would.

Sources

  • Helpguide.org/articles/mental-health/mood-boosting-power-of-dogs.htm#
  • Purina.com.au/en/dogs/behaviour/small-dog-syndrome#.X5bqhbvYrrc
  • Pets.webmd.com/dogs/features/depression-in-dogs#1

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