Is your dog healthy, mentally?
Dog mental health is actually a thing. But have you ever asked yourself how your dog is doing mentally?
If you’re a dog parent (not just an owner), you may have noticed times when your dog appears to be smiling. Or maybe, they know you’re leaving for a while and they get mopey. If thunderstorms are headed your way, do they go hide? All of these things are clues to your dog’s mental health.
Just like us humans, dogs have mental problems from time to time. If the problems aren’t severe, your dog is probably pretty healthy physically too. But if your dog has more severe issues like depression or PTSD, they might really be suffering physically too.
Catching mental health issues can make life better for your dog. You can observe and notice changes in their physical appearance or behavior. Whether mild or severe, there are some things you can do to improve the situation. Good mental health is connected to good physical health.
What kinds of things can cause a problem with mental health?
There can be lots of different causes, either one at a time, or more than one, that are all effecting your dog. The more stress your dog feels from these issues, the more likely that physical problems will show up or get worse. Conditions like:
Physical pain or chronic health issues
If a dog has pain or other ongoing physical issues, he or she is more likely to be depressed. Symptoms like not eating well, withdrawing from enjoyable activities, or getting grumpy might show up.
Significant changes like moving, the birth of a child, or different schedules can cause depression and anxiety since your dog may not know how to deal with the new situation. Holidays can be a time of change, even if it’s happy. Read my post about the Holidays and dogs for more.
Loss of a loved one
Dogs mourn like we do. Whether the loss is human or nonhuman, dogs can have symptoms of depression and anxiety as they recover and learn to accept a new normal.
Fear or anxiety
Your dog might have a fear that seems to come out of nowhere or there could be a specific cause that you’re aware of. Either way, fear can really cause some physical and behavioral issues.
Traumatic events like an accident
Dogs can suffer from PTSD after a trauma. They might get aggressive, anxious or develop repetitive behaviors (OCD) as a way to deal with the conflict they feel.
Abuse or neglect
Even after the physical injuries heal, the mental ones remain. A lot of times, dogs go through PTSD or anxiety as they heal mentally and emotionally.
Issues of unknown origin
Other circumstances in addition to pain or trauma can cause depression, anxiety or other mental issues. These can be really tough to work with if the cause is unclear.
Ways to help your dog be happier
As much as you want it to be so, you can’t always fix what’s broken in your dog. However, depending on all of the factors involved, there are several approaches that could help.
First and foremost, a visit to the vet would be good. Your vet can locate issues that might be causing problems or at least rule them out. It’s easier to address mental issues if the physical ones are in check.
Having addressed physical issues, you can start exploring options that might help your dog to be happier. Unfortunately, there isn’t a magic formula that works for every dog. Many times, trial and error are necessary in order to form a plan that works specifically for your dog.
Some of the more mainstream approaches are
Training – teaching your dog how to deal with an issue that’s causing them a problem
Spending time with your dog – if your dog is feeling off or unsure, just taking the time to go for a walk, play ball or cuddle could help them feel more themselves.
Medicating – if your dog is in pain or extremely anxious, the vet may be able to recommend/prescribe something that will help resolve the issue.
Decreasing stress – if certain situations cause your dog to feel stressed, keeping them away from that situation can help them deal.
Maintaining schedule – if other things have changed, at least having a schedule that feels more normal can help them find their way.
Or there are less mainstream approaches
Massage – Dog massage is getting to be more available and, just like us, the process of having muscles massaged and receiving physical touch can help soothe mental issues.
Acupuncture or acupressure – part of this technique addresses causes of disease, including mental issues and stress. It can really help reset your dog’s system. For more about this, read my post.
Reiki – an energy healing technique, Reiki can help resolve any negative emotions or mental issues. Classes are available so you can do this yourself. Read about it here.
The thing to keep in mind is that there are LOTS of options out there. You can find something that helps even if it doesn’t completely solve the problem.
Why is dog mental health important?
It’s important for your dog to have complete health. One area, like mental health, effects all other areas. Just like a machine, each part has to be working well for the machine to run it’s best. That’s why each piece of the puzzle is important so your dog can be as happy and healthy as possible.
Feeling connected with your dog can help with their mental health, as well as yours. Read more about how much they understand us here.
What approaches do you take to help your dog feel their best? Let me know in the comments, below.