Studies have shown that enhanced interactions with animals may help decrease the levels of cortisol, the primary stress-inducing hormone. That explains why many mental health experts recommend hanging around pets a lot more to mitigate stress and anxiety.
Other studies have also shown that interactions with animals may help to reduce the negative feelings associated with loneliness and boredom. This can have an overall positive effect on our moods and self-esteem.
Unfortunately, the focus is usually on the impacts owning a pet can have on our mental health and not what we can do to ensure that our furry friends also lead happy lives free from stress, anxiety, and depression. That’s probably because many pet parents still do not think their four-legged companions can develop mental health issues.
But just like humans, animals can develop a variety of mental illnesses. This post looks at everything there is to know about animal mental health, with a focus on how to take care of your pet’s mental health.
What Causes Mental Health Problems in Pets?
Hormonal changes in the body are the leading cause of anxiety and other mental health problems in animals.
Animals and humans have the same neurotransmitters that help regulate their mental health. Examples include serotonin and dopamine. Constant fluctuations of these chemicals may trigger chronic mental health issues. The situation is usually worse for male pets in their reproductive years, who may occasionally be overwhelmed by surges in reproductive hormones.
Lack of mental stimulation may also cause your pet to develop mental health problems. This is
Other significant causes of mental health issues in animals include;
- Routine changes, such as constantly moving homes or a new addition to the family
- Lack of consistency (with feeding, sleeping, training, etc.)
- Certain sights and sounds, such as flashing lights and fireworks, etc.
- Underlying medical conditions
Symptoms of Mental Health Issues in Pets
Despite the cause, most animals will exhibit specific symptoms suggesting an underlying mental problem.
Common ones include;
- Inexplicable aggression
- Obsessive-compulsive patterns
- Separation anxiety symptoms, such as increased vocalization when no one is at home
- Destructive tendencies, such as excessive chewing and scratching
- Improper litter behaviors, such as peeing or pooping anywhere else but in the litter box
Tips for Solving Mental Health Problems in Pets
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a compound in hemp marketed for its immense anxiolytic properties.
CBD might help treat stress, anxiety, and a host of other mental conditions in humans and animals alike. The compound mainly relieves stress by suppressing cortisol.
Studies have also established positive interactions between CBD and the chemical serotonin. Increased serotonin levels may help reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, not only in humans but also in our furry friends.
Feel free to click on this link to find high-quality CBD oil for dogs, cats, and other common household pets.
Exercise Your Pet
Just like humans, exercise can increase the release of endorphins in animals. These neurochemicals can further stimulate happy feelings, ultimately helping to treat mental conditions.
Endorphins are also associated with high energy levels. That explains why regular exercise is particularly encouraged for inactive animals.
The good thing is that you don’t need to subscribe to any strict exercise routines to stimulate the release of endorphins in your pet. You can invite the animal to your morning runs or entice him to join you on a mid-afternoon swim (in the case of water-loving pets like dogs).
Enhance Training and Socialization
Inadequate training and socialization can predispose an animal to mental health issues. Therefore, proper training and socialization are paramount.
Pets should be socialized early enough, preferably as soon as they’re weaned. A considerable part of the socialization should entail familiarizing the animal with his surroundings.
Take routine walks around the neighborhood together, venture along the freeway, and spend some days taking in your local city’s nightlife. You’ll realize that your furry companion is no longer spooked by the sights and sounds that most pets find frightening, such as fireworks and the revving of car engines.
Enrich Your Pet’s Environment
You may not be around to pamper your pet or exercise him all the time. But you can always keep his environment enriched even when you’re gone.
The best way to enrich your pet’s environment is by providing him with sufficient toys. The toys can go a long way in keeping the animal physically and mentally stimulated in your absence. This could help reduce the risks of mental conditions like separation anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders.
Besides toys, you can also enrich your pet’s environment by providing him with other basic amenities, such as food, a sleeping bed, a litter box, and a scratching post.
Take The Animal for a Professional Check-up
If all the above interventions fail despite your best efforts, then it may be time to take your pet for a professional check-up.
The vet will perform a raft of tests to establish if your pet suffers from any underlying medical conditions affecting his mental health.
Note that mental health issues don’t always emanate from diseases that affect feelings and emotions. Any ailment that causes pain, inflammation, and sleep deprivation could trigger mental health problems.
All animals suffer from mental health problems once in a while. While these conditions will often resolve independently, some cases may require particular interventions.