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How to Take Care of Your Pets’ Mental Health

by Anant Khare 01 Jul 2022
Having a furry friend with you can be the best feeling ever. Their cute little paws, the constant attempts to grab your attention, waking up next to their serene presence, and of course, the innocent and selfless love- every single thing makes you all mushy and cheery. Until you realise that keeping a pet is nothing less than taking care of a child. However, with all the morning cuddles, long walk in the park, and play date, you get to face the hassle of maintaining them and tolerating the tantrums. Yes, you have heard it right. They might not be able to speak like us with expressions; that's why sometimes it becomes challenging to understand animals' mental health.

Before going forward let’s clarify the concept of mental health. In simple words, mental health is the state of your mind. It may include:
  • Your thoughts and feelings have happiness, sadness, stress, and more.
  • Your ability to cope with life’s challenges.
  • The way you think and make decisions about yourself and others.
  • Your physical health (such as how well you eat or sleep).

Imagine having a long tiring day filled with meetings and PPTs, and then you come home and see that cute little face on your tummy- you might be smiling and imagining now while reading this. But did you ever think about what your little friend did all day? Did they have any issues in life? Did they miss you or eat their food at all? Take a pause and think about how you feel when someone pampers you; you feel loved and special. It's essential for your pet also to feel the same way.

Pet and mental health- A never-ending debate:

We all know that mental health is essential for every living creature on this earth. Though it's a little unfortunate that many people are still rigid and orthodox regarding mental health, most of the population is eager to talk, know, and discuss it. In addition, most animal psychologists and veterinarians say that animals can suffer from mental health issues, affecting their overall wellbeing. There are some cases where animals do exhibit signs of mental illness. However, it's not always clear whether they have a mental disorder or if they're just acting out because they're being abused or neglected. In some cases, the animal may have suffered from a traumatic event that causes PTSD or depression.

In addition to mistreatment, some animals may have been exposed to certain environmental toxins or chemicals that could cause behavioural disorders. For example, if your cat eats fish containing mercury and ends up vomiting it back up, it could result in an altered mood or behaviour (such as refusing to eat).

Things to know about animals' mental health:

Cat

  • Military dogs can suffer from PTSD or anxiety; this happens because they rarely get an optimistic environment to enjoy.
  • Stress, overexcitement, and boredom can grow avian depression in birds, which includes over-preening and feather plucking.
  • Dogs can also have autism; obsessive tail-chasing can signify it.
  • House cats can improve some OCD behaviour.
  • If a cat is not given attention and care, it might have anxiety/ depression later.
  • Horses always cooped up in a small paddock can have anxiety; kicking the walls, not eating well, and chewing the woods are the symptoms.
  • Every hamster is a hoarder; it may look cute with a mouthful of food, but it can also indicate their wild behaviour.
  • Worried animals are generally sleep-derived.
  • Due to mental illness, some animals also commit suicide.

Simple ways to take care of your pet's mental health:

Spot the symptoms:

This is the primary requirement to boost your pet's mental health. But, first, consult an animal psychologist and identify the reasons and signs of the distress. Unless you solve it from the roots, it might revive back to your pet even after treatment. Some general red flags are:

  • Getting cranky
  • Not eating and sleeping well
  • Getting homesick
  • Not willing to play or interact

Sometimes unhygienic surroundings also take a toll on your pet's mental health. So make sure you keep your house and the pet's bedding clean. Use plant-based floor cleaners because your pet comes in direct contact with the flooring. You can opt for TheBetterHome's pet friendly natural floor-cleaners. It contains no harsh chemicals and is completely safe for your pet.

Exercise your pet:

A cat playing

Exercise is essential for any living creature to stay healthy, especially dogs. The more active your pet is, the better its body will respond to exercise by getting rid of toxins through sweating and urination. In addition, the muscles in their legs and back get stronger with regular exercise, so they can run faster or jump higher if necessary. An active dog can also help prevent obesity or diabetes in certain breeds, as well as arthritis in older dogs who already have had one too many walks. Exercising regularly can also lower your furry friend's blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Provide mental enrichment:

French Bulldog

Pets left alone for a long period can become destructive and anxious. Even if you’re not at home all day, it’s essential to provide enrichment activities so your dog has outlets for energy and doesn’t get bored. Dogs experience boredom like humans, and a lack of proper enrichment can lead to anxiety and destructive behaviours. If your dog is tearing things up or chewing on your favourite shoes, that indicates that your dog needs more outlets for its energy. She likes to employ “nose work,” where dogs use their noses to track a scent. While puzzle and enrichment toys promote nose work, you can create your games, too. Even just hiding their dog food around the house so that it’s not simply given to them out of a bowl – that’s stimulating because they’re looking and moving around.

Give them space:

dachshund dog chewing toy

Not all dogs are equipped to handle the stresses of modern life, especially those that experience separation anxiety and fear. If your dog’s anxiety is too much for them or you to handle at home, she recommends getting the best treatment possible. She also adds that some dogs are more anxious than others — there may be specific circumstances that cause a dog’s level of anxiety to escalate.

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