Mental Disorder Signs In Dogs

Behavior Dog Health April 23, 2024
Mental Disorder Signs In Dogs
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Mental Disorder Signs In Dogs

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Mental Disorder Signs In Dogs

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, 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

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a condition characterized by a repetitive, constant series of actions or motions that have no apparent purpose or function. Typically developed from regular maintenance behaviors, OCD interferes with normal behavioral functioning.

Common OCD behaviors include spinning, tail-chasing, self-mutilation, hallucination, circling, fence-running, hair/air biting, pica, pacing, staring, and vocalizing. Some dogs may also show aggression.

OCD can affect dogs of any breed, gender, or age, with specific symptoms varying depending on the breed. It develops early in life, around 12–24 months of age, and early intervention is crucial if the 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 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, being raised in a puppy mill, or being 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 those in 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 Disorder 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 result 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 the 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 confident and conscious of their bodies 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, like humans, can suffer from mental health issues like depression. It’s crucial to identify these issues in order to provide the necessary care for your dog’s overall well-being. Both mental and physical health are vital, and owners should be aware of these disorders and seek the necessary help to improve their dog’s quality of life.


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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.
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