Recognizing Canine Mental Problems

Canine problems include physical problems such as infections and diseases, and behavior problems such as coprophagia (eating dog feces). But did you know that dogs can also have mental problems? Canine mental problems and canine behavior problems are often discussed interchangeably, but the two conditions are different and each has its own special treatment methods and medications. The key to treating canine mental problems is recognizing the different types of canine problems, symptoms of each, and possible causes.

Canine Mental Problems

Dogs can have anxiety and get depressed too. Depression and anxiety are two of the most common canine mental problems facing dogs. Although dog's cannot verbally communicate their feelings, they will show several obvious physical signs of being depressed. Dog depression is characterized by lack of interest in playing, apathy, recurrent behavior of searching and sniffing, isolation, lack of appetite, and in some cases, constipation. Dog anxiety is characterized by destructive behavior, urinating or defecating indoors, diarrhea, and vomiting. In some cases, such as in the case of separation anxiety, the dog might vomit in the owners shoes or some other item that he may associate with his owner leaving him alone.

Causes of Canine Mental Problems

Canine depression can be caused by:

  • Traumatic experiences (physical and mental abuse)
  • Solitude
  • The death or disappearance of another human or dog
  • Sudden changes in environment, such as moving to a different house
  • Having a new owner
  • Loss of freedom (confined to a small space)
  • Hyperthyroidism (endocrine disease)

Dog anxiety can be caused by everything from storms and phobias to separation from their owners.

Treatment for Canine Mental Problems

While canine depression is rarely fatal, certain behaviors associated with it can cause some serious health problems. If your dog stops eating or drinking because he's depressed, he can become emaciated and dehydrated. If your dog is mildly depressed, with regular exercise, exposure to other dogs, and lots of attention, chances are he will come out of it in a few weeks. If he is severely depressed, he might require an anti-depressant. Your vet can recommend the best types and dosages.

Traditional behavioral exercises can be effective in treating dog anxiety as well as non-sedative medications. Most vets will recommend a combination of both. Some of the most effective anti-anxiety medications include: amitriptyline and clomipramine. Unlike drugs like valium, which can cause over sedation, amitriptyline and clomipramine have very few side effects when taken as directed. If you suspect that your dog has a severe case of anxiety or depression, do not attempt to treat or diagnose him on your own. See your vet immediately.

For more information about canine problems and recognizing canine mental problems, see: