It’s Mental Health Awareness Week, and whilst most of us are focusing on raising awareness of mental health issues in our own minds, it’s easy to forget that dogs can suffer from mental health problems too. Like humans, dogs can experience issues including stress, anxiety, depression and grief. Find out more about how to spot the signs if your furry friend is suffering emotionally, and what you can do to help them.
Spot The Signs
Typically, any unusual behaviour that affects your pet’s quality of life is an indicator for emotional or physical problems. In particular, dogs that are stressed or anxious will often lick compulsively or have widened eyes. Other signs of mental health issues include restlessness, oversleeping, aggression and not wanting to eat, and changes in their overall demeanour. You know your dog better than anyone, so any behavioural changes should be easy to notice. Always visit your vet if you notice any changes.
Do More of What They Love
The same advice we give to humans can often be applied to dogs too. Every dog loves different things, and it’s fairly easy to tell what makes them really happy. If they especially love play time, then try to spend more time interacting with them. If they love company and affection, spend more time comforting and cuddling them. If they love walks, then take them to new places where they can explore new sights and smells. It’s especially important for depressed or grieving dogs to be able to do the things they love to give a zest for life again.
Avoid Overwhelming Situations
Whilst it’s good for our furry friends to interact and socialise with other dogs and humans, this can cause stress and anxiety for them. Public spaces can be overwhelming for dogs so you should avoid these situations if you know it will cause them to get stressed. Even inviting friends or family into your home can cause your dog to become anxious, so it’s important to give them space and make sure they have a quiet place to retreat to if needed.
Exercise & Enrichment
Just like us, dogs need regular exercise and enrichment to stay happy and healthy. To prevent boredom, spend time playing with your dog or taking them for walks to help create a bond between you and stimulate your pup’s senses. In particular, exercising man’s best friend outdoors will benefit the both of you, and provide your pup with plenty of things to sniff and explore. Find out how much exercise your dog needs in our blog ‘How Much Exercise Should My Dog Get?’ Don’t forget that our Dog Walking Field is available for your private use if you want to exercise your dog in a secluded, spacious and enclosed area. Puzzle and enrichment toys will keep your dog’s mind occupied too.
How Dogs Can Help us in Return
Dogs make excellent companions, and studies have shown that owning a dog can improve our own mental health. Not only are they great at helping to calm and relax you, they’re also a great motivator to get out more and socialise with other dog owners. Having a dog to look after can give a person with depression a sense of purpose, and can be very calming for those with anxiety. Dogs help us to feel less lonely and more loved.
Do you think your dog has a mental health problem? Let us know in the comments!
Mental Health Awareness Week: 14 – 20 May 2018