The Pet Parent’s Guide to Understanding Mental Illnesses in Dogs |


Even though the stigma around mental illness is declining,the modern world is still in the process of understanding it. However, there is comparatively little literature when it comes to the mental health of our pets. As pet parents, most of us do an incredible job in taking care of our animal companions’ physical health. But physical health is just the half of it. The power of pets to positively affect our mental health is widely recognised but the question is, how can we ensure their mental stability and happiness?
But first let’s take a look at a few mental illnesses that can plague our darlings.


                  Anxiety is a mental health condition that is experienced by most human beings. Since anxiety is an emotion that developed to safeguard us against the unpredictable hazards in this world, often it is considered to be a healthy emotion. But it progresses to the space of mental illnesses when it exceeds the healthy amount and affects our ability to function in daily life. In dogs, anxiety comes in three main forms: Separation Anxiety, Social Anxiety and Noise Anxiety.

Separation Anxiety- Separation Anxiety is the panic that sets in when dogs fear being left alone. This condition is triggered when dogs are separated from people they are attached to.

Some of the common symptoms are:

  • Frantic Barking
  • Destructive Behaviour such as chewing items, furniture and
  • Unusual amounts of saliva
  • Patterned pacing
  • Escape attempts

How to Treat Separation Anxiety?

Separation Anxiety sets in owing to your dog’s hyper attachment to you. The ultimate goal is to get them used to your absence and make them self sufficient. A few steps you can take to achieve this are:


A tired dog is a happy dog. The benefits of exercise in humans and dogs are countless. Exercise will reduce stress in your pupper causing them to stay relaxed everytime you leave.

Special Toy-

Give your dog a special pet, something different from their other treats and toys that they only get when you leave home. This will keep them engaged and entertained as they will be busy playing with their special toy. Don’t forget to take the special toy away once you are home.

Your Clothes-

Leave clothes recently worn by you with your pet. This is a tip to ensure they don’t feel as lonely without you.

If you believe the case is more serious, don’t rush things. Get help from their vet and make a practical plan to slowly get this under control.

Social Anxiety-

Social Anxiety is experienced by dogs who have a history of trauma and of being neglected. They will show symptoms of fear and aggression when around other dogs and humans. Prevention is the best solution in this case. You need to start socialising your puppy from a young age and ensure you give them attention as and when required.

How to Treat Social Anxiety?

Steady Exposure-

Take it one step at a time and allow your dog to meet one person and dog at a time. Reward with treats, pampers and toys when they stay calm and patient. In the beginning, if they start to feel overwhelmed, do not force them to go on and have a safe space prepared to which they can retreat.


Take them for walks in quiet roads where they can get used to meeting small number of people then and now.

Noise Anxiety

Dogs are especially started around loud sounds. It is a known fact that dogs get stressed during thunderstorms and fireworks.

Here are the symptoms of noise anxiety in dogs:

  •  Trembling
  • Panting
  • Tucking tail between legs
  • Clingy
  • Hiding
  • Destructive behaviours
  • Escape Attempts

How to Treat Noise Anxiety?

When it comes to noise anxiety, your best bet is to manage the symptoms when they start showing it.

Safe Space-

Find a room or location they can retreat to when there are loud noises around. This space should reduce the noise level and should be comforting to them

Soft Music-

Soft music or any other noises that mask the noise outside is another option.


If you know beforehand that an event with loud noise is upcoming, give them plenty of exercise which will tire them out and relax them which will prevent them from engaging in anxious behaviours.




Depression can be identified in dogs through a set of physical symptoms such as :

  •  Reduced social interaction
  • Refusing Treats
  • Lethargy
  • Weight loss
  • Noticeable behavioural change

Before you come to the conclusion that your dog is depressed, take them to the vet to rule out any other illnesses. Plus, your vet will be able to give a proper diagnosis of depression in dogs.

How to Treat Depression?

Your vet is your best guide when it comes to managing these illnesses. Do consult with your vet to know how to go about this. However, here are a few tips that can help soothe them.


As always, exercise can help ward off a host of illnesses, both mental and physical.

Regular Vet Care-

Constantly monitoring your pet for symptoms will help prevent them and you can also be happy knowing that you are being a responsible pet parent by looking after them without fail.

Fun activities-

Pursuing their interests and activities is a surefire way to keep them happy and their spirits high

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

OCD applies to dogs in a different sense. In humans, OCD appears often in the form of obsessive thoughts and this does not apply to dogs. Canine compulsions appear as compulsive behaviours. These are

  • Compulsive Tail Chasing
  • Biting/Sucking a particular body part
  • Repeatedly Scratching

It is best not to home treat OCD symptoms as they often come attached with other medical diseases. Take your pet to the vet to rule out any such illnesses and once your vet is confident your pet is complete;y physically healthy, he/she will prescribe a long term treatment/ behavioural modification techniques to help your dog.

Ensuring that your pet is psychologically healthy and stable is an important step in your journey with them. Sharpen your intuition, listen to your gut and take care of your dog the best way possible for their health and happiness.