Mentally ill dogs will show the first signs of illness by the age of 5 weeks.They show symptoms such as difficulty learning, getting along with other dogs, relating to humans and their surrounding, and difficulty learning. These mentally challenged puppies act similarly like children with Autism. Some fearful pups show exaggerated startle reflex while others show aggression and become potential biters which causes them to bark excessively. By age 3 years their condition has already peaked. In-breeding is usually one of the causes of mental illness in canines.
It is necessary to keep environmental stimuli to minimum because like humans, pets with autism need calm environment. No loud noises, touch them gently, and of course, a stable home situation. They do not interact well with children too. Their special diet should be followed and must consist of meat and no grains. Medications prescribed by the vet may also be beneficial.
Mental Illness and misbehavior both exist in human and beast. With the humans we tend to think of depression and schizophrenia, but these mental illnesses also exist in animals. A dog with mental illness may be violent even when unprovoked, or is destructive of property. These signs should not be mistaken for misbehavior.
Often, mentally ill dogs are misdiagnosed as having behavioral problems. Pet owners treating it as such are bound to fail for treating the symptom rather than the underlying cause. In mild cases, the dog startle and hide at the sound of loud noises. In severe cases, the owner of mentally ill dog may get bitten by their pet. An uneducated pet owner will leave his mentally ill pet untreated and later on he may have him euthanized when the pet is at his worst. The owner may also excessively punish his pet over something he has no control, due to his mental illness.
Depressed dogs resemble humans that are depressed, they look and act depressed. They do not want to play, go anywhere nor do anything. These dogs become couch potatoes. Changes in environment especially the family unit is typically what triggers depression in dogs.
- Slowed movements
- Anxious, restless, aggressive behavior
- No desire to play
- Wants to sleep all the time
- Weight loss/gain
- Loss/Increase of appetite
- Decreased fluid consumption
- Shedding of fur at an off-season for them
You may consider getting your pet an animal companion if he is having depression due to a family member that is no longer in the home. Spending more time with your pet may also help. Walk with him, it will increase hormones secretion that is known to elevate their moods.
Another common mental illness in dogs is separation anxiety. They become anxious and extremely upset once their owners leave. The pet cannot control his behavior. An area of the brain that controls stress and fear is causing separation anxiety, which is a panic disorder. This disorder is very common in dogs adopted from shelters. On the other hand, it is rarely seen in puppies. Separation anxiety is a fear of being abandoned by their owners. Dogs experiencing this will usually have the severe anxiety attack within the first 15 minutes their owners have left.
Signs of Separation Anxiety:
- Howling - The dog will voice out distress by barking.
- Havoc - He may wreak havoc in the attempt to find you.
To change their behavior, medication and desensitization training will be needed. In desensitization, the pet will have to sit and stay there as the owner gradually steps away from him and then out of the room. The dog stays and learns that the owner will return. The goal here is to take the fear of the pet out of the pet owner's departure. It takes dedication and patience since it is time consuming. Many veterinarians may refer the owners to a behaviorist.
|Catch me if you can|
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Tail chasing is not a healthy behavior no matter how delightful it is in our eyes. It is a common sign of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in dogs. It often manifests when the dog is stressed. Dogs with this disorder are known to pull out clumps of hair and bite themselves until they bleed. These areas become open infected sores. Some dogs lineup stuffing pulled out of pillows in geometric forms while others lick everything in concentric circles. The usual drug of choice for dogs with this disorder is Prozac. In milder cases, distraction and removal of the source of stress is beneficial.
As of yet, there is so much we don't understand or know about our pets' brain. What we know is that dogs can be mentally ill for many reasons. There are various treatment options to help mentally ill dogs. If your pet has a mental condition, take care of all his needs, physical, social and emotional. When in doubt about his condition, check it out with your vet.