A Corner on the Couch: The Reality of Mental Illness in Pets

From the latest cute kitty meme circulating on the web to a hit movie starring talking dogs, it is easy to anthropomorphize animals. Oftentimes we assume that they experience the same emotions and thoughts that we do, although in most situations the jury is still out.

One thing that we do recognize, however, is that our animals can experience certain forms of mental illness. Although it may take different forms and have different implications in our four-legged counterparts, Beverly Hills Veterinary Associates knows that mental illness in pets is a real and serious thing.

Manifestations of Mental Illness in Pets

Mental illness in pets can take many forms. Some of them are analogous to human conditions and others not so familiar. And, since dogs don’t lay back on the couch and tell all, they aren’t always easily diagnosed.

As we learn more and more about our animal companions, symptoms of things like depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and dementia become apparent.

Pets suffering from a mental illness may experience recognizable symptoms such as:

  • Increased sleeping
  • Loss of appetite
  • Obsessive behaviors such as licking or pacing
  • Overgrooming
  • Loss of housetraining
  • Destructive behavior
  • Changes in normal behaviors

Mental illness in pets often develops over time or in relation to a traumatic event. An animal may become depressed after a major life change such as the loss of a companion (human or animal).

Likewise, anxiety may occur after a scary experience. Separation anxiety, perhaps the most common mental problem we treat, often happens in pets who have been separated from loved ones such as those placed in rescues or shelters.

Canine cognitive dysfunction, a form of dementia, is also common in pets as they age. While there is not a cure, recognizing it early can help to provide the care your pet needs to age gracefully.

Helping Your Pet

If you think your pet may be suffering from a form of mental illness, there is no need to feel helpless. We are better than ever at diagnosing and treating these problems in pets.

Call us — When you sense something is awry, the very first thing to do is give us a call. Arriving at a proper diagnosis will help us to better treat the problem and help you get your pet back faster. Besides this, many other health issues can have similar symptoms to mental health issues. It is important to identify and treat these as well.

Enrich, enrich, enrich — Taking steps to enrich your pet’s environment with positive stimulation, adding exercise to the daily routine, and making sure that you pet is getting appropriate social interaction can help tremendously.

Supplement the problem — Various nutritional supplements may be helpful to your pet depending on the problem. Please consult us to see what might be appropriate for your furry loved one.

Let the drugs do the talking — Some pets may benefit from pharmaceutical intervention. Medications such as fluoxetine (Prozac) or clomipramine (Clomicalm) can be very helpful in many instances, especially when other therapies are utilized as well – but only ever under the supervision of a veterinarian. Please do not s

Our staff and yourself make up an extraordinary team designed to support your pet’s health, both physical and mental. We know our animal friends do so much to help our own mental health. This makes it even more important to do our best for them in return.