Depression and anxiety are often thought of as human conditions but research by Direct Line Pet Insurance showed two fifths of owners believe their pets can also develop these conditions.
26 per cent of owners say their dogs exhibit signs of separation anxiety and a quarter say their dogs suffer from stress. One in twelve were also concerned their dog may have an eating disorder or believe their dog has experienced grief.
Dogs that are stressed may exhibit a host of symptoms such as excessively shedding their coats, pinning back their ears, diarrhoea, or demonstrating destructive behaviours such as chewing furniture. One in ten believe their dog has suffered from depression in the last year.
The causes of these conditions vary. One in six owners believe a previous traumatic event is the cause of psychological conditions such as OCD, separation anxiety, PTSD or grief in their dogs. Many owners, however, believe that they are the cause and have passed their anxiety or depression to their dog.
Madeline Pike, Veterinary Nurse at Direct Line Pet Insurance said, “Pets are often relied on for comfort by their owners when they are upset or stressed. However, dogs are sensitive, emotionally intelligent animals that also respond to the environment around them. We can rely on our dogs to cheer us up when we are feeling down. However, it is important we reciprocate this dependency by ensuring that the environment in the home is as positive as possible so we don’t negatively affect our dogs’ behaviour.”
Sarah Page-Jones, Head Vet at PawSquad, an online pet health consultation service said, “As our human lives get busier and more complex, we may become distracted and stressed by our own schedules and, as a result, spend less time with our pets. Pets often pick up on our stress and can become anxious when left alone, and this can affect their wellbeing. Although it’s not always appropriate to extrapolate human conditions directly to animals, it is becoming increasingly important to take time to understand our pets’ behaviours and act to reduce the risk of stress-related disease.
“Many psychological and behavioural conditions are not covered by Pet Insurance policies; however, there are lots of practical online guides offering valuable advice for owners to help them take proactive steps to manage their pets’ mental health. If pet owners are concerned, PawSquad offers affordable online consultations with experienced veterinary surgeons that can be accessed anytime, from anywhere.”
Tips for making your home a happier place for dogs
- Talking to your dog benefits both you and your pet. Even though your dog may not understand what you are saying, it allows them to become more familiar with your voice and can be relaxing.
- Food is king. Purchasing good quality dog food and putting more thought into what you feed your dog, will keep them healthy and put a smile on their face. More importantly, always ensure your dog can have drink at their leisure – this will make them feel they are more at home and allow them to cool down in warmer temperatures.
- Pets like routine, so be consistent and keep to a routine as much as possible for feeding, walking and bedtime.
- Give your dog access to a safe hiding place so if they are stressed, they can escape if they feel afraid.
- Dogs are intelligent animals and can become easily bored so make sure they have access to suitable toys and objects to chew.