Can Dogs Have Mental Illnesses/Mental Illness Signs In Dogs

Behavior Recent March 23, 2023
How To Treat Dog Allergies
Avatar photo


Can Dogs Have Mental Illnesses/Mental Illness Signs In Dogs

This page contains affiliate links. We may earn money or products from the companies mentioned in this post through our independently chosen links, which earn us a commission. Learn More

How To Treat Dog Allergies


Because the emotional areas of a dog’s brain have been shown to be very similar to those of humans, it is no surprise dogs can suffer from anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, or even OCD. Since our dogs are unable to communicate their emotions to us, it is up to us to spot the warning signs.

In this article we will go over the most typical mental health conditions that affect dogs, the warning signs of dog mental illness, how to care for your dog at home, and when to call your veterinarian.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in Dogs

A repetitive, largely constant series of actions or motions that have no apparent purpose or function is a symptom of compulsive disorder. Although the behavior is normally developed from regular maintenance behaviors (such as grooming, eating, and walking), this repetitive behavior interferes with normal behavioral functioning. The title “OCD” or “Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder” is used to describe it.

Spinning, tail-chasing, self-mutilation, hallucinating (fly-biting), circling, fence-running, hair/air biting, pica (appetite for non-food things like as dirt, rocks, or dung), pacing, staring, and vocalizing are the most frequently observed Obsessive compulsive behaviors. In addition to this, some dogs even show forms of aggression.

Obsessive-compulsive disorders can affect dogs of any breed, gender, or age, although the precise OCD symptoms exhibited may vary depending on the breed, such as spinning as opposed to self-mutilation. Like other anxiety disorders, OCD develops early in life, around 12 to24 months of age, as the dog develops and grows. Early intervention is important if your dog is showing signs of compulsive behavior and comes from a line of affected pups.


Dogs can indeed suffer from depression just as humans do. More than 75% of dogs, according to research by the UK organization Guide Dogs, may display symptoms related to anxiety or unhappiness. However, dogs do not experience the type of clinical depression that we associate with humans.

That being said, our canine family members can suffer from depression in the form of the blues, sadness, and bereavement. Although we can not question dogs about their feelings, we can look for clues that suggest that they are suffering.


Although it can take many various forms, anxiety in dogs is fairly common. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular anxiety disorders seen in dogs.

  • Separation Anxiety

Another kind of anxiety commonly occurring in dogs is separation anxiety. Although many dogs love spending quality time with their owners, separation anxiety is more severe than when you leave since it causes them to cry. In dogs who fear being left home alone, excessive barking, urinating and defecating indoors, and chewing on furniture are all common behaviors.

  • Social Anxiety

When a dog has previously experienced neglect, such as living on the street, raised in a puppy mill, or were taken from abusive or neglectful conditions, they are more likely to develop social anxiety. When around other dogs or people, this social disorder can make your dog experience terrible anxiety and even become aggressive.

  • Age-Related Anxiety

Age-related anxiety, which is frequently linked to cognitive dysfunction syndrome, can affect dogs who are suffering a deterioration in memory, perception, and awareness. For humans who are conscious of their condition, the deterioration is devastating because it mirrors Alzheimer’s disease. Dogs find it even more perplexing because they have no idea what to expect or why it’s happening. Aggression, disorientation, destructive behavior, and housebreaking mishaps are typical.

  • Fear-Related Anxiety

Some dogs experience anxiety induced by their fear, or response to something like loud noises from fireworks, gunshots or even sirens. When your dog hears loud noises, they might excessively bark, hide, pant, slobber, or tremble. These behaviors are telltale symptoms that they are experiencing fear-related anxiety.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Dogs can show signs of PTSD just like their human companions do. Dogs returning from service in the military, like the middle east, have been found to display the same behaviors as humans returning. Unfortunately, dogs with this mental disorder are typically not provided with appropriate treatment and are euthanized due to bad behavior.

Veterinarians who properly diagnose the condition now recommend effective training techniques to assist dogs in healing from the psychological trauma they have endured. There are alternative methods that have been offered in addition to using drugs to treat PTSD. Systematic desensitization might be beneficial. Desensitization can start by exposing a dog to whatever its trigger is, such as sounds. They are given treats while keeping calm as the noise gets louder. This way they start to associate the sound with treats, not trauma.

Ways to Treat Mental Illness in Dogs

We see our dogs as members of the family and compare them to humans in many ways. As an informed dog owner, it’s important to know what to look for when your dog suffers from a panic attack, depression, anxiety and other issues. The first step toward a happy and healthy pup is understanding the symptoms and knowing how to treat  the problem.

Below are some of the ways mental health disorders in dogs can be treated:

Physical and Mental Stimulation – Dogs who lead sedentary lives are more likely to experience anxiety and depression, which frequently results in irrational or destructive behavior. These behaviors can be minimized by giving your dog mental stimulation and scheduling time for exercise.

Space – If you think your dog may be depressed, you might be tempted to offer them more attention than usual. However, it’s sometimes helpful to give dogs their space because giving them too much attention can often make them even more anxious.

Natural or Prescribed Medicines – Certain mental health issues are triggered by physical discomfort a dog may be going through. In this situation, owners may want to think about pain management, which could entail receiving a prescription for canine medicines from your veterinarian. Natural items like CBD oil can be utilized as a treatment for anxious pets for people who prefer more holistic cures.

Massage and Body Conditioning – A gentle massage can calm an anxious dog (make sure to research safe techniques). Dogs respond well to body awareness exercises, strength training, and conditioning programs in addition to massages to help them feel more self-assured and conscious of their body and behaviors.

Favorite Activities – Allowing your dog to engage in their favorite activities will keep them happy. If your dog enjoys chasing things, start practicing fetch every day. If they enjoy chewing, make an investment in some premium chew toys. Finding out what activities your dog enjoys will help you learn how to alleviate dog anxiety.

Regular Check Ups – Ignoring an issue in the hopes that it will go away over time is probably the worst thing you can do for your dog and for yourself. Visits to your veterinarian on a regular basis are beneficial because your dog will be content and healthy, and you’ll have a better chance of spotting or stopping ailments in their tracks.

Final Thoughts

Dogs can have mental health problems just like humans. Depression and other mental health issues commonly exist in the canine world, despite the fact that they may show up in the same way as they do in people. 

It’s important to identify mental issues in order to get our pup the care they need. Your dog’s mental and physical health are equally vital to their overall wellbeing. When our pets struggle with mental health disorders that may impair their quality of life, it is our job as owners to be aware and get them the help they need.


Avatar photo

Amy Towry is a Certified NAVC Pet Nutritionist and pet lover. She is the proud owner of two rescue cats and a rescue dog and her love for animals has led her to a successful career as a freelance writer specializing in pet care, nutrition, and product reviews.
Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *