Taking Care of Your Pet’s Mental Health
WORDS: Peter Minkoff PHOTOGRAPHY Supplied
It’s a scientifically proven fact that animals can improve our mental well-being and make us feel better. Whenever you are having a rough day or you are struggling with something, animals are there to help. Even when we want to be alone, they find ways to comfort us.
Our furry friends bring us joy and unconditional love when we feel lonely or under a lot of pressure. But, how about their mental health? As grateful pet owners, how do we take care of our pets and return the favour?
Signs of depression and anxiety
Both people and animals lose interest, and it’s a perfectly normal thing. But, when your pets stop suddenly doing activities they loved previously, it’s a clear sign that something is wrong. Does your pup seem bored with their daily walks? Or your cat couldn’t care less about their favourite stick toys?
You need to be aware of these signs, especially if your pets exhibit additional symptoms.
What happens in the self-care department? Did you know that dogs under psychological distress tend to lick their paws all the time? The same thing happens with kitties; they will lick themselves many times throughout the day.
On the other hand, if you notice that your cat’s fur has become matted or dull due to lack of grooming, maybe you should check what’s wrong with them.
It can be devastating when your dog or cat that was once cuddly, always at your side, ready to play, now wants to be alone and feel distant. Even though many pet owners take this personally, it’s crucial to know that this is a symptom of a mental health problem.
Prevention and help
It is important to spend some time with your pet and do activities they love. For instance, you can do some extra playtime, engage in long walks, and even give them some tasty treats to boost their mood.
While we want to comfort our furry companions when they are in blue, it’s recommended to avoid praising or rewarding them while sulking. This could send the wrong message and cause an adverse effect. Pay attention to the type of anxiety dog shows and then decide what to do.
Has your pet been spending a lot of time alone at home? Maybe after working from home, you now need to go back to the office. Or maybe your pet has experienced a great loss, be that a fellow-animal friend or human companion.
If you decide to get a new pet, this could improve their mood. Additionally, you will feel better and be able to focus on other things now that you know your pet is getting all the attention they deserve.
This should be the last option, but in some cases, it’s necessary, depending on your pet’s mental state. You may already have some common medications that treat depression and anxiety in your cabinet.
Commonly prescribed drugs include Zoloft, Ativan, Valium, and Xanax. However, don’t use any of these without consulting your vet.
How does our mental health affect pets?
Pets can sense our feelings and even mirror our emotions. For instance, if you feel anxious, upset, or sad, they will be able to sense it. While many of us turn to animals in crisis situations, recent studies suggest that human emotions significantly affect pets.
Therefore, this might be the right time to reconsider your behaviour. When feeling bad or dealing with some difficult situation, don’t look for your pet to comfort you. Isolate yourself until you feel better.
How to understand pets’ feelings
One of the best things you can do is understand their body language and overall behaviour. This will help you evaluate their emotional state. Being familiar with different signs can help us understand when they are anxious, happy, or sad.
When cats are happy, they tend to stand, have a relaxed body posture, sit, or lay down with their belly exposed. On the other hand, if you notice your cat in a crouched position or constantly hiding, you are dealing with a worried pet. Angry cats exhibit violent behaviour, with ears flattened to the head and pupils dilated.
On the other hand, happy dogs are playful, bouncy, with wagging tails, ears in natural position, and eyes in normal shape. When your dog is worried, you will notice their tail tucked under, head position is low, avoids eye contact while their ears are back.
Angry or unhappy dogs will stand with a stiffened posture, with ears up, eyes looking at you, and hair raised. While this behaviour might be a sign of concern, there are still many things you can do to help your pets feel better.
Animals are complex creatures, and they have feelings and emotions like humans. Therefore, if you notice any of the signs we mentioned previously, talk to your vet to find the best course of action.