Dog owners want to ensure they’re pets are loved and happy. However, they might show signs of distress or injury. Like humans, dogs suffer from mental illness, too. Often, it’s hard to know when your pup is suffering mentally, but the only way to learn from your dog is by recognizing when psychological problems they’re experiencing are different from their normal behaviors.
There are a few common mental issues dogs deal with and here are the steps you can take to help your dog through their trauma.
First: Rule Out Other Factors
Before you change any of your dog’s lifestyle routines, or assume they have a mental illness, you need to make sure their behavior is not a result of changes to their physical life. Some questions to ask yourself include:
- Have you made any changes to your dog’s diet or feeding schedule, medication or supplements?
- Have you made any other lifestyle changes? Has there been a change in the frequency of walking, a change in sleep, or a new grooming schedule?
- Have you introduced a new dog or pet into the household?
Many of these changes could affect the way your dog behaves.
Post Trauma and Changes to your Dog’s Routine Affects their Mental Health
Dogs are similar to humans in that they react to the world based on what has happened to them in the past. Plus, dogs are creatures of habit, so if there’s been a change their routines, it could be that confusion or anxiety is causing them trouble. In turn, it’s reflected in their daily activities and the way they react to you and other people around them.
Dogs may experience anxiety for many reasons. Some include:
Separation Anxiety — If you’ve changed your schedule, your dog could be missing you. It can even occur if there are other people in your household. Many dogs show favor to one person, and get upset if that person suddenly isn’t around as often.
Food Anxiety — Dogs may develop anxiety if there’s a change in their feeding time or the type of food they’re used to eating.
Environmental factors — Changes in neighborhood or home environments can drastically affect your dog’s attitude, too. For instance, if you recently moved or have a noisier house or apartment, that’s close to traffic, it can affect your their mood.
In these cases, the best cure is to take time. Allow your pet to get accustomed to a new schedule and new place. It could take up to two weeks until they finally get used to a new routine.
Post-traumatic stress disorder
The mental illness, often called PTSD, can affect your dog’s attitude. Usually PTSD is caused by prior traumatic events. Current events may trigger stress and cause uncharacteristic reactions.
For instance, if a dog has previously been abused and something reminds them of the abuse, they can react abnormally. Other possible triggers of PTSD include:
- Sharp, loud noises
- Dog fights
- Traumatic accidents
- Seeing their owner in distress
The best way to help your dog is to calm them down when they react to these stressors. Try soothing them with a calm voice and holding them until the episode passes.
Sudden Antisocial Behavior
If your dog suddenly begins exhibiting antisocial behavior, it could be a result of other mental health disorders that can be triggered from a new pet in the family, new roommates, or sudden, violent events.
It can be a difficult time for you and your family. The best way to ease the situation is to introduce a new family member or pet gradually to your dog and to demonstrate your affection for the new family member in the dog’s presence. But remember to show affection to your dog, too. This lets him know that both of them are part of the ‘pack.’
If your dog is still experiencing anxiety, consult your veterinarian. Your dog’s attitude could be a reaction to an unseen physical injury, too. If that’s the case, your vet can diagnose the issue and offer additional steps.