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Mental Health Issues and Your Pet

Frightened Husky dog hiding in a wooden box

Pet owners may notice their animal companions sometimes exhibiting some bizarre behaviour. But at what point can it be considered a mental health issue and something you should be concerned about it?

Recognition of mental illness in pets is growing, with an increasing number of pets undergoing psychological treatment and taking mood-altering drugs to help them. If left untreated, mental illness in pets can be as detrimental to their life quality as other diseases and injuries. Below we look at some common cases of mental health issues in pets and solutions.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

OCD, sometimes called canine compulsive disorder (CCD) in dogs, is characterised by excessive repetition of an action of behaviour, which can vary depending on the context.

Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety can affect a wide range of common pets including dogs, cats, birds, horses, rabbits and guinea pigs.

Excessive Fears and Phobias

In the wild, fear of strange or loud noises is an evolutionary adaption necessary to reduce the risk of injury or death. For many pets, especially young ones, initial fear or new or novel stimuli is normal. Pets usually habituate following repeated exposure and fear reactions are reduced or eliminated.

Address Signs of Mental Illness Early

Emotional health issues in pets can have a detrimental effect on the quality of life of the animal and their owner. Our understanding of animal’s mental health and our methods of treating it are getting better. It has already influenced the way we design our zoo enclosures, farms and laboratories.

If you notice an early signs of mental illness in your pet, consult a specialist veterinarian. Many pet owners make the mistake of thinking they will grow out of it leading to a life of distress. Keep an eye out for any repetitive behaviours, phobias, anxiety, aggression, inability to learn and any sudden, major changes in behaviour and act accordingly.


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