10th October was World Mental Health Day. It doesn’t say human mental health day so it made me think about dogs’ mental health. Can they have mental health problems? Do you look at your dog sometimes and think: he looks sad… depressed… why he is obsessively digging… or chewing his feet? Let’s have a look at some of the problems our dogs can face and how can we help.
What can cause a dog’s depression and what can we do?
First of all, we have to recognise the problem that’s leading to the depression. This can be:
Physical illness Contact your vet to rule out a physical cause. If it is an illness, when your dog recovers, his mental health will improve as well.
Grief Dogs can experience the grief just the same as us… when they lose their human or animal friend; when a family member moves out… all of this can cause depression.
Environmental Changes Some changes like moving to a new home can affect a normally happy dog. It may take some time for the dog to adjust.
Us When we are sick or depressed our dog is able to pick up on our energy and may begin to feel the same as we do. Also our dog can get depressed if we are not with him. This is called separation anxiety, which can show in different ways such as sadness, depression, barking, destroying the kitchen.. So what can we do?
• Exercise your dog and make it fun and interesting
• Teach your dog new tricks, games…
• Let him play with other dogs
• Get another dog. Especially if his depression is caused by losing a friend
• Seek the help of a dog behaviourist
Anxiety in Dogs
Anxiety in dogs has similar symptoms as in humans.
Common symptoms include:
• Withdrawal or hiding
• Excessive barking
• Attempts to escape
• Self-injuring behaviour
• Diarrhoea or vomiting.
• Reduced activity.
• Destructive behaviour
Separation anxiety is a frequent problem in dogs, because they have difficulties being alone. Dogs are pack animals and from birth they are used to be together with other dogs. So if our dog suddenly stays home alone, it is something completely new for him. But because of the way we live our dog has to learn how to be alone. Here are few tips on how to prevent separation anxiety:
1. Do not carry your puppy everywhere – it’s very tempting especially with a new puppy
2. When teaching your puppy to stay alone for long periods of time, start with just a few seconds, a minute, leave the puppy in a different room. A few drops of Comfort Blend on the dog’s bed can help. If the puppy is quiet, reward this behaviour, if not ignore it.
3. Do not pick your puppy up if she cries or jumps on you – little attention seeker 🙂
4. Reward your dog with attention when she is calm and quiet.
5. Always stick to the same routine before you leave your dog home alone.
6. Ignore your dog 20 minutes before you leave and 10 minutes after you return ( I know this is hard – but even a few minutes would help. And you have to think, I’d rather do this than deal with an anxious dog, which is very traumatising not only for the dog but for us as well). Comfort Blend can help you and your dog.
7. Leave your puppy with a friend, in doggy daycare, etc.
8. Make sure all of your dog’s needs are being met, like regular exercise, mental stimulations, etc.
How aromatherapy can help.
There is no one single best essential oil for depression and anxiety. There are some oils, however, that work better than others on certain problems. That’s why in Vita Canis’ calming products, Comfort Blend and Calming Floral Spray, you can find a synergetic blend of essential oils. Synergy is where the action of two or more substances (essential oils, in this case) achieve an effect, of which each is individually incapable. Let me mention a few of the oils I use: Bergamot essential oil in the Comfort Blend reduces nervous tension, anxiety, stress, insomnia, depression… It also stimulates the activity of certain hormones, dopamine and serotonin, which induces feelings of relaxation. Petitgrain essential oil has a relaxing effect, it helps overcome depression, anxiety and stress, and is uplifting. Sweet Basil is uplifting, refreshing, works well against depression and anxiety. Another important oil in our blend is Neroli essential oil. Like lavender, this essential oil is one of the most popular essential oils. It has a greatly relaxing effect on the body and mind, relieves muscle spasms and calms heart palpitations.
As a loving dog owners we can help our dogs. The more we know about depression and anxiety in dogs the easier it is to find ways to help.