Health and Mental Well-Being in Dogs

Pets help people lower stress and anxiety levels, ease loneliness, and reduce depression. However, while we’re experiencing all of these fantastic benefits, it is essential to make sure that our dogs are in a good place mentally.

In this blog post, we will explore mental health in dogs in further detail and look at the relationship between physical health and mental well-being in dogs. After all, dogs cannot simply tell us when they are unhappy. They rely on us to pick up on the cues they give us. 

Can dogs get depression?

Depression is a type of mood disorder, which is characterized by persistent feelings of loss of interest and sadness.

It is very difficult to know whether dogs experience depression in the same manner that humans do, as we cannot ask them.

However, it is not uncommon for pets to experience periods of sadness. This is especially the case during periods of change. 

While it is uncommon for dogs to experience prolonged bouts of depression, it is not impossible. Plus, as we will discuss, periods of depression can harm a dog’s physical health, which can then cause them to feel sad, and it becomes a bit of a vicious cycle. This is why it is vital to pay close attention to your dog’s mental wellbeing. 

What does it mean for your dog to be mentally healthy?

When we think about mental health, depression is often the first thing that comes to mind. However, a healthy mind is not just about being happy. A healthy mind is one that is engaged and occupied as well.

When dogs do not get enough interaction, this can cause mental health problems to arise. You may notice a lack of interest in activities, aggression, fear, separation anxiety, obsessive-compulsive behavior, hyperactivity, and destructive behavior. 

A lot of these behavioral issues will come to the fore when no one is at the property. Nevertheless, when cases get more severe, the dog will emit these symptoms all of the time. 

If your dog runs at speed without being provoked, barks a lot, chews objects and furniture, whines, or does not seem interested in anything, there is a chance that your dog is highly bored. Again, boredom is not good for the mental state. 

What causes depression in dogs?

There are a number of reasons why dogs can become depressed, and it can often be challenging to pinpoint them, as is the case in humans.

Nevertheless, significant changes in a dog’s life can usually result in periods of them feeling down and low. Examples include adding another pet to the household, a new baby or spouse in the house, or moving to a new home. It could even be as simple as a change in your dog’s schedule, for example, if you used to work from home and now have an office job, this could be why your dog does not appear his usual happy and energetic self. 

Two of the most common triggers of severe cases of depression in dogs include the loss of an owner or the loss of a companion animal. 

Dogs also respond to the reactions of other individuals within the home. Dogs are good at picking up on emotions. If you have been crying a lot and you’re sad because someone in your household has passed away, your dog will be able to pick up on this. 

Looking out for signs that your dog is not content 

There are many different signs that your dog is suffering from health problems. This includes the following:

  • They have some digestive issues, for example, vomiting or their poop is not normal or consistent.
  • Your dog is not engaged or excited when you try to play with him.
  • Your dog is overweight.
  • You can see the hip bones of your dog protruding out.
  • You come home to furniture that has been destroyed or evident signs that your dog has tried to escape.
  • Your dog does not seem comfortable in their own space anymore; they may even hide a lot.
  • Your dog lashes out at people.
  • Your dog does not eat normally at mealtimes; he may be possessive over his food bowl.

A lot of people also notice that their dog has become angry and possessive, which is unusual. While this could be the case that it is merely a common trait for your dog breed or it has occurred because of a lack of training, this can also happen because your dog is fearful and anxious. 

All of these are indicators mentioned signal that you do not have a very happy dog, and you should certainly take action to try and make your dog happier and healthier.

Of course, these signs can sometimes mean that there is a different problem, such as a physical one. Either way, don’t simply ignore them and hope they will go away. 

The link between physical health and mental well-being

It is important to note that there is a clear link between physical health and mental well-being in dogs. A dog’s mood can cause behaviors that they may have never exhibited before.

This includes an upset stomach, skin infections, ear infections, and other types of injuries.

Just think about the damage that stress can do to our bodies. A lot of people are physically sick through stress. You then have people who grind their teeth aggressively while sleeping or awake due to stress. Some people also notice that their hair starts to fall out. Many different physical symptoms can arise in humans due to stress and anxiety, and dogs are no different.

This can make it difficult as a dog owner to know whether the issue is mental health-related, and causing physical symptoms, or whether the issue is a physical health problem, which is then causing problems for the dog’s mental health. This is why it is always a good idea to consult with a vet if you are unsure, and they should be able to give you a helping hand. 

How can you improve your dog’s mental health?

Now that you have a good idea regarding mental health issues within dogs and the different signs you should look out for, let’s explore some of the steps you can take to ensure that your dog is happy and healthy both physically and mentally. 

Help your dog to cope with any major life events

The first thing you need to do is help your dog through any changes that happen in their life. Dogs don’t usually like change, and this can be one of the main reasons for their mental health to deteriorate. 

Like humans, dogs can also feel grief and loss. Life changes, for instance, moving to a new home, can trigger feelings of sadness in any dog. 

Because of this, you need to look for ways to help your dog cope with the big change that is underway. For example, if you are moving home, you can gradually introduce your dog to the property, allowing them to explore each room at their own pace.

You can also give your dog more time to exercise and maintain as much of a sense of normalcy as possible. 

Give your dog some attention

One thing that dogs want more than anything else is attention from their owner. Do you give your dog enough TLC?

It can be easy to forget about this, especially if you have a lot of other commitments, for example, you have a big family or work long hours. Nevertheless, making sure your dog gets a lot of love and attention from the humans around them is so important.

If your dog does not get that all-important love and interaction, they will feel lonely and unloved, and these are feelings no one wants to experience!

Feed your dog a healthy diet

Your dog’s mental health can also be massively impacted by their diet. This is why it is advisable to ensure your dog consumes food that is highly nutritious. 

You should also restrict their access to human food, as this can be very challenging for them to digest properly. 

Make sure your dog’s living space is peaceful and safe

You also need to ensure that your dog’s living area is comfortable and feels like a safe haven. 

If you have noticed that your dog is displaying signs of territorial aggression, yet they spend all of their time in your garden watching other dogs walk by, they will feel stressed out. 

Another example of a stressor regarding living conditions for your dog is when older dogs simply want some peace and quiet. They may not be so happy being around children, so do keep this in mind. 

Provide mental stimulation and daily exercise

You would be shocked by how many problems can be rectified with a bit more time spent exercising your dog and playing with him.

Don’t overlook the fact that dogs require exercise on a daily basis. Some breeds may require more than one form of exercise per day. Exercise is known to make us feel good, both mentally and physically, so you don’t want your dog to miss out on it. 

Dogs can benefit even further if you add an extra layer of mental stimulation in the form of mental games or training sessions. 

It is worth looking into hiring a dog walker if you do not have the time to take your dog out every day. This is an effective way of ensuring your dog gets the daily exercise and mental stimulation he needs, even if you live a hectic lifestyle. 

Take the time to choose a dog walker with care, though. Read the reviews that have been left online and make sure you feel comfortable with the person. 

Take your dog to the vet on a regular basis

Last but not least, dogs can have both mental and physical health issues. As mentioned earlier, these problems are intimately linked. This is why it is imperative to take your dog to the vet on a fairly regular basis so that you can make sure that everything is ok. 

How is depression treated in dogs?

You now know a few of the different approaches you can take to ensure that your dog is mentally healthy and happy. However, what if the signs of depression do not go away? Is there medication available for dogs, just like humans?

Well, first of all, most dogs do tend to bounce back from depression with time, whether this is a few days or a few months. You need to exercise them more, do more of the things they enjoy, and keep them engaged. 

When your dog shows signs of happiness, you should reward him. This will help to encourage positive behavior. 

At the same time, you need to be mindful not to encourage negative behavior. Do not give your dog treats while he is moping. You should also avoid lavishing out at a dog that is depressed. After all, think about how you would respond if you were upset and someone started lashing out at you for it, it wouldn’t be very nice, would it?

There are medications available to help dogs get past depression if none of the ideas mentioned are working, and your dog is still not getting better.

However, this is something that your vet should advise you on. Your vet will be able to make plenty of recommendations, and they can use their experience and knowledge to know whether medication is going to be right for your pet or not. 

Final words

So there you have it: an insight into the relationship between physical health and mental well-being in dogs, as well as some of the steps that you can take to boost your dog’s mental health.

We hope that you will have found this post useful when it comes to looking after your dog’s health and well-being.

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