What to Know About Mental Health Care and Dogs

Canine mental health is a vital aspect of your dog’s overall well-being. Just like humans, dogs can suffer from a range of mental health issues, including anxiety disorders and compulsive behaviors, which can impact their quality of life. Being a responsible pet owner means understanding and addressing your dog’s emotional needs and stress levels in addition to their physical ones. In this article, we’ll explore common dog mental health issues, their causes, and how you can help your furry friend.

3 Common Dog Mental Health Issues


Anxiety in dogs is more common than you might think. It can manifest in different ways, such as excessive barking, destructive behavior, and even aggression. Some common triggers for anxiety in dogs include separation anxiety, loud noises, and unfamiliar environments. Keep an eye on your dog’s behavior to spot any signs of anxiety early on, as this will help you address the issue more effectively.


Just like humans, dogs can experience depression. Symptoms of depression in dogs may include lethargy, loss of appetite, and a disinterest in play or social interactions. Depression can be triggered by a variety of factors, such as the loss of a companion, changes in routine, or underlying medical issues. It’s essential to monitor your dog for signs of depression and seek veterinary advice if you’re concerned.

Compulsive Behaviors

Compulsive behaviors in dogs are repetitive actions that serve no apparent purpose, such as tail chasing, excessive licking, or constant pacing. These behaviors can be driven by anxiety, frustration, or even boredom. Addressing the root cause of these compulsive behaviors can help alleviate the issue and improve your dog’s mental well-being.


There are many factors that can contribute to mental health issues in dogs. Some common causes include:

  • Genetic predisposition
  • Early life experiences, such as abuse or neglect
  • Chronic pain or illness
  • Aging and cognitive decline
  • Environmental factors, such as a noisy or chaotic living situation

Understanding these potential causes can help you identify potential risk factors and take steps to minimize their impact on your dog’s mental health.

Dogs at Risk for Mental Health Issues

While any dog can develop mental health issues, certain breeds and individuals may be more prone to them. Some factors that may increase a dog’s risk include:

  • A history of trauma or abuse
  • A history of being rehomed multiple times
  • A predisposition to anxiety or fear-based behaviors
  • Breeds that are prone to specific mental health issues, such as separation anxiety in dogs with strong attachments to their owners

Being aware of your dog’s unique risk factors can help you take proactive steps to support their mental health.

When to Call the Veterinarian

If you notice any sudden changes in your dog’s behavior or mood that don’t seem to have an obvious cause, it’s a good idea to consult with your veterinarian. They can help rule out any underlying medical issues that may be contributing to the problem and advise on next steps for addressing your dog’s mental health needs.


Treatment for mental health issues in dogs will vary depending on the specific issue and its severity. Some common treatment options include:

  • Behavior modification training
  • Environmental enrichment to reduce boredom and stress
  • Medication, such as anti-anxiety drugs or antidepressants
  • Consulting with a veterinary behaviorist for more specialized guidance

Your veterinarian can help determine the most appropriate treatment plan for your dog’s individual needs.

Are There Dog Psychologists?

While there may not be dog psychologists in the traditional sense, there are veterinary behaviorists who specialize in understanding and addressing behavioral issues in animals, including dogs. These professionals have extensive training in animal behavior and can provide valuable insights and guidance for addressing

your dog’s mental health concerns. Veterinary behaviorists can work closely with your veterinarian to develop a comprehensive treatment plan tailored to your dog’s specific needs and circumstances.

spect of Canine Mental HealthKey Takeaways
AnxietyIdentify triggers, provide a safe environment, consider behavior modification training or medication
DepressionMonitor for signs of depression, address potential causes, seek veterinary advice
Compulsive BehaviorsProvide mental stimulation, address underlying causes, work with a veterinary behaviorist
CausesBe aware of genetic predispositions, early life experiences, chronic pain, aging, and environmental factors
At-Risk DogsPay special attention to dogs with a history of trauma, rehoming, predispositions, or breed-specific risk factors
TreatmentBehavior modification, environmental enrichment, medication, and consultation with a veterinary behaviorist
Supporting Mental HealthEstablish routine, mental stimulation, socialization, exercise, prompt medical care, safe environment, patience, and understanding

Can Dogs Have Schizophrenia?

While schizophrenia is a well-known mental disorder in humans, it’s not a condition that has been clearly identified in dogs. However, dogs can still exhibit unusual behaviors and mental health issues that may resemble some symptoms of schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia in Dogs Symptoms

Although schizophrenia hasn’t been conclusively diagnosed in dogs, some signs that might suggest a dog is experiencing a mental health issue similar to schizophrenia in humans include:

  • Sudden and unprovoked aggression
  • Inexplicable fear or anxiety
  • Unusual vocalizations or sounds
  • Hallucination-like behaviors (e.g., reacting to things that aren’t there)
  • Disorientation or confusion

Signs of an Unstable Dog

An unstable dog may display some of the following signs:

  • Unpredictable or erratic behavior
  • Aggression towards people or other animals
  • Extreme fear or anxiety in familiar or unfamiliar situations
  • Pacing, whining, or panting without an obvious reason
  • Inability to settle or relax

Psychotic Dog Behavior

While the term “psychotic” is generally used to describe human mental disorders, dogs can exhibit behaviors that might be considered psychotic. These behaviors include:

  • Extreme aggression without provocation
  • Compulsive behaviors (e.g., excessive licking or tail-chasing)
  • Unusual reactions to stimuli (e.g., cowering or fleeing from harmless objects)
Credit: Relax my Dog, How to Cure Depression in Dogs! Dog Depression Signs and Advice!

Schizophrenia in Dogs Treatment

Since schizophrenia isn’t a well-established diagnosis in dogs, treatment options would focus on addressing the specific symptoms and behaviors the dog is exhibiting. Possible approaches include:

  • Behavior modification training
  • Medication to manage anxiety or aggression
  • Consulting with a veterinary behaviorist
  • Environmental adjustments to reduce stress and provide a secure, comfortable environment

Tips to Support Your Dog’s Mental Health

To help maintain your dog’s mental well-being and prevent potential mental health issues, consider the following tips:

  1. Establish a consistent routine: Dogs thrive on predictability and routine. Having a daily schedule for meals, walks, and playtime can help reduce stress and anxiety in your dog.
  2. Provide mental stimulation: Mental enrichment is essential for keeping your dog’s mind sharp and engaged. Offer a variety of toys and puzzles, and engage in regular play and training sessions to challenge your dog’s brain.
  3. Socialize your dog: Expose your dog to new experiences, people, and other dogs in a controlled and positive manner. Proper socialization can help prevent fear and anxiety-based behaviors.
  4. Exercise regularly: Regular physical activity is crucial for maintaining your dog’s overall health and well-being. Ensure your dog gets enough exercise based on their breed, age, and individual needs.
  5. Address medical issues promptly: Keep up with regular veterinary check-ups and address any health concerns promptly. Physical pain or illness can contribute to mental health issues in dogs.
  6. Provide a safe and comfortable environment: Make sure your dog has a comfortable and quiet space to retreat to when they need some downtime. Minimize exposure to loud noises and chaotic environments whenever possible.
  7. Be patient and understanding: If your dog is struggling with a mental health issue, be patient and compassionate. Work closely with your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist to find the most effective treatment plan for your dog.

By taking a proactive approach to your dog’s mental health, you can help ensure they live a happy, healthy, and well-adjusted life. Remember, your dog’s mental well-being is just as important as their physical health, and addressing any concerns early on can make a significant difference in their overall quality of life.


Q: How can I help my dog’s mental health?

A: Support your dog’s mental health with a consistent routine, mental stimulation, socialization, regular exercise, prompt medical care, a safe environment, and patience.

Q: What is it called when you get a dog for your mental health?

A: A dog obtained for mental health support is called an emotional support animal (ESA).

Q: What is canine dysfunctional behavior?

A: Canine dysfunctional behavior refers to abnormal behaviors in dogs, such as excessive barking, destructive chewing, or compulsive pacing, often caused by anxiety, fear, or boredom.

Q: How do you know if your dog is depressed?

A: Signs of depression in dogs include loss of interest in activities, unusual sleep patterns, appetite changes, withdrawal, and excessive grooming.

Q: Is my mental health affecting my dog?

A: Yes, your mental health can have an impact on your dog. Dogs are sensitive to their owner’s emotions and can often pick up on feelings of stress, anxiety, or sadness. This may cause your dog to mirror your emotions or develop their own anxiety or stress-related behaviors. Maintaining your mental well-being is essential not only for yourself but also for the health and happiness of your furry companion.

Further Reading

  1. Dogs Trust Ireland – Dog Training and Behaviour Dogs Trust Ireland provides a range of articles and resources related to dog training, behavior, and health, including tips for addressing specific behavioral issues and promoting good mental health.
  2. American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) – Behavioral Health: https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/pet-owners/petcare/behavioral-health This resource from the AVMA provides information on various aspects of pet behavior and mental health, including tips for pet owners and guidelines for working with veterinary behaviorists.
  3. American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (ACVB) – https://www.dacvb.org/ The ACVB is an organization of veterinarians who are board-certified in veterinary behavior. Their website offers resources on behavioral issues in pets, as well as a directory of certified veterinary behaviorists for consultations and treatment.

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