Do dogs suffer from mental illness

This may sound like an odd way of putting it, but dogs are sophisticated enough to suffer from mental illness. You may not usually think of mental illness as being associated with intelligence, but in some cases it may well be. Dogs, instead of being non-sentient beings are generally pretty bright. This is just one of the reasons that we love them so much. If they were completely daft and insensitive then we may have chosen different pets to be our closest animal companions.

One of the most common mental illness’s that dogs can suffer from is depression. This condition may arise out of despondency. Just as we need to feel that our own lives have quality and meaning so do dogs. The type of meaning that they are looking for though, is not about helping starving children or attaining peace for the world. A meaningful existence for a dog is one where they can have long romps in the countryside and feel the grass beneath their feet. It is having a warm and loving home where they have companionship and their needs are met.

Dogs who don’t have enough exercise, freedom, companionship or attention often end up very down in the dumps, to the point of having full on clinical depression.

We already know that animals can be adversely affected mentally by their environments. Bears in enclosed spaces in zoo’s pace up and down for hours and sometimes even rock backwards and forwards. Dogs display certain behaviours too that show when they are feeling considerable stress. They may bite and chew their paws until they bleed. They may rip out their fur, just as a parrot rips out their feathers when stressed or a human pulls out their own hair in anguish.

Another symptom of depression is where a dog actually looks like its feeling down. It loses enthusiasm and cant be bothered to get up and do anything anymore. This is how many humans react when depressed too.

But it isn’t just depression that dogs may suffer from. There are many other identifiable mental illnesses that they can have also. Mood swings and sudden behavioural changes can be due to mental illness that has a physical cause. A brain tumour can cause a loving and placid dog to become aggressive and violent. Certain medications may effect their mental state. Other illness’s can have a detrimental effect on a dogs mental well being.

It may also be true to say that there is probably much about dogs and their mental health that we don’t yet know. Perhaps they can be bi-polar and suffer from too much of a certain chemical in their brains or too little? Maybe dogs can even be schizophrenic? Not being able to properly interview a dog we just don’t know.

What we do know however, is that dogs have emotional needs, not just physical ones, and that when we have a pet dog we are as responsible for making sure that these needs are fulfilled as much as we are responsible for feeding them and providing them with shelter.

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