It’s World Mental Health Day (10 October 2019). In collaboration with Veterinary Expert Brian Faulkner, Petplan have explored the truth behind whether our pets suffer from mental health problems so you can give them the best chance at a happy life.
Petplan’s 2018 Pet Census found that around 9% of pet owners in the UK believe their pets have suffered from depression and that 4% claim their pets have been through PTSD – however this isn’t strictly correct.
Many people believe their pets have suffered mental health problems but Veterinary Expert Brian Faulkner says this isn’t the case, as we can’t humanise animal behavioural difficulties as mental health issues. ‘Negative changes in your companions’ behaviour could be down to anxieties or a trigger.
Knowing the signs
It can be distressing to see a pet suffering because of anxiety and/or other stressors. Knowing the signs and how to respond appropriately will help promote your pet’s positive wellbeing.
The most common symptoms of anxiety in dogs include:
- Slumped or lowered posture
- Excessive (or reduced) physical activity
- Increased vocalisation and/or yawning
- Uncontrolled urination and/or defecation
- Persistent snout-licking, paw-lifting, and/or trembling
- Heightened aggression
- Prolonged episodes of tail-attacking, circling, pacing, etc.
- Ripping up bedding/furniture
Certain scenarios can make pets more stressed than usual. Identifying these and knowing how to respond is important when it comes to looking after your pet. The most common is when you’re away for long periods of time. If you haven’t trained your pets to be alone from a young age, they can get separation anxiety – fortunately, with the right training this can be avoided.
Petplan also found that 28% of UK pet owners have reported to avoid going on holiday because of their animal companions. For many of us that is time much-need, you should always make sure your pets are safe and happy in your absence, or consider a staycation with them to get around the issue altogether.
Your pets’ wellbeing should also be a major consideration while you have company. Remember to take their stress levels into account when hosting guests, particularly those who are staying over. Creating a special safe space or room for your pet is another great idea if you expect lots of visitors, regardless of the occasion.
Almost everything you need to improve your pets’ behaviour and general emotional state involves making appropriate lifestyle adjustments to theirs and your routines. Keeping them engaged and spending quality time together are both excellent starting points.
You should also make sure they’re enjoying a balanced diet and that they get plenty of exercise. But, there’s also no harm in visiting the vet if these simpler remedies don’t appear to be working.
Ultimately, no one is going to be able to keep a better eye out for your pets’ wellbeing than you. Learn the signs of emotional distress and remember to always act quickly so that your pets get the help they need.