Dogs are usually the happiest member of the household, right? They provide unconditional love, and they’re always SO excited when you come home. But just like you are affected by what you experience every day, so is your dog. So how do you know if your dog is unhappy? Many people don’t know that dogs can also experience mental health issues.
For humans, when we’re struggling with something, we have the ability to communicate these feelings. Our canine friends can’t – but they do show physical signs of stress, anxiety, or depression.
An important disclaimer: if your pup is struggling, this doesn’t mean you’ve done something wrong, or that you’re a bad owner! There are many possible root causes for this, ranging from past experiences (generally in the case of an adopted dog) to boredom and loneliness if they spend a lot of time alone, and we encourage you to discuss them with your veterinarian if you have any concerns.
This is a common issue in dogs and one that many dog owners can identify when they see a tucked tail, whimpering, or other symptoms that show your dog is uncomfortable. This is normal when your dog is in a situation they don’t like, and simply removing them from the situation often solves the problem.
However, in some cases, your pup might be exhibiting signs of anxiety for longer. If your dog is a rescue, they may have experienced something before being adopted that made them anxious. Even if not, sometimes dogs can be naturally anxious, or it can be difficult to pinpoint what triggered the anxious behavior.
This is why it’s important to keep in mind that anxiety can manifest in many ways, including shaking, hiding, bad behaviors, and lack of activity. At the end of the day, you know your dog best, and you’re probably the best one to tell if something is “normal behavior” or not.
Separation anxiety is also common – and it can often be mistaken for excitement. If your dog barks and shakes when you come home, this could point to separation anxiety.
Another dog mental health issue is depression. Similar to anxiety, unexpected experiences can cause a dog to be depressed. This could be a sudden change (like moving to a new home), or the loss of a loved one.
Physical signs of depression include weight loss, excessive sleeping, reduced activity, etc. You might even notice your dog seems lethargic.
Providing a stable environment and a lot of love is a good way to help your dog cope with changes. However, if you think your dog is struggling with depression, talk to your vet.
You might also notice that your dog looks sad, but that should not necessarily cause panic. Elisabeth Geier at Rover wrote an article about dog sadness, what it is, and how to deal with it.
Just being aware that your dog is struggling is the first step to helping them. Making sure they are getting enough love, walks, and mental and physical stimulation can also help relieve some symptoms.
However, there are many things that affect your dog’s well-being that is outside of your control. Dogs can read situations very well, which can affect their mood. Additionally, owners sometimes have a hard time identifying symptoms of mental health issues. By understanding the signs and common issues a dog faces, you are more like to detect them and help your companion. This is why it is important to look for the physical signs of mental health issues in your dog and seek help from a veterinarian if you have any concerns.