iStock_000000686354_LargeJust about everyone knows someone, or has themselves been touched by conditions such as depression, anxiety, or dementia. These issues are very real for many Americans. But while we focus very heavily on the bodily health of our pets, we sometimes forget that pets can battle these types of problems as well. Learn what you need to know about mental illness in pets

Common Types of Mental Illness in Pets

There are many manifestations of mental illness in pets that we must deal with. A few types are more common than others, however. Some of the more common issues that we deal with include:

Anxiety disorders – Storm phobia, separation anxiety, and other fear-based behaviors can certainly stem from anxiety or stress. In some pets these types of mental illness can affect the health and happiness of the entire family.

Obsessive compulsive disorder – Pets can experience obsessive compulsive disorder, or OCD, just as people can. A pet suffering from OCD may lick an area repeatedly, chase his or her tail, or obsess over shadows. OCD in pets often stems from boredom, anxiety, or stress.

Dementia – Also called canine cognitive dysfunction, dementia in pets can be likened to Alzheimer’s Syndrome in people. Older pets that suffer from this condition may have trouble knowing where they are, suffer from memory problems, and are often confused or disoriented.

Of course there are other ways in which mental illness can rear its ugly head in our family pets as well. Aggression, depression, and other afflictions can also be seen.

What we Can Do

Pets who suffer from mental illnesses are certainly not lost causes. There are many things that can be done in order to help them to function more normally and to improve their quality of life.

If you feel that your pet is suffering from some type of mental affliction, it is important for us to sit down with you and discuss what is going on. Sometimes other health problems can be mistaken for psychological issues, so it is vital that we become familiar with the situation.

Once we understand what you are seeing at home and have become confident in a diagnosis of a mental problem, we will then work with you to develop a treatment plan for your pet. Treatment plans for mental illness in pets might include:

  • Environmental enrichment
  • Social enrichment
  • An exercise program
  • Nutritional supplements
  • Medications
  • While it is human nature to shy away from using medications, these can often be vital in helping pets who are truly suffering from a mental illness. Anti-anxiety medications such as clomipramine (Clomicalm) or fluoxetine (akin to Prozac or Reconcile) can be very effective for separation anxiety cases or obsessive compulsive disorders, while other medications such as Anipryl can help pets who suffer from cognitive dysfunction.

    Mental health is just as important in pets as physical health. If you have questions or concerns regarding a problem that you suspect could be psychological in your four-legged friend, be sure to ask. We are here to help and want to be sure that your pet’s mental health is in tip-top shape.