Signs of Mental Illness in Dogs

Updated July 20, 2017

Dogs are beloved and most become a part of the family. But in many cases of dogs succumbing to mental illness, the owner never realises there's a problem until too late. As dogs age, their mental capacity decreases. Knowing the signs of mental illness in dogs can mean the difference between treatment and slow mental deterioration.

Unusually Destructive Behavior

As a pet owner, you are the authority on your pet's behaviour. When a well-trained dog begins tearing up your home, scratching your furniture and destroying their beds, there is a problem. They may even begin self-mutilation in severe cases. Dogs that demonstrate unusually destructive or compulsive behaviour suffer from separation anxiety, fear or boredom. It may also be a sign of bigger mental health illnesses like depression and Alzheimer's disease.

Increased Anxiety

Dogs with increased anxiety, including excessive barking, shaking, destructive behaviour or aggression, show signs of a possible mental illness. Dogs that do these things when the owner leaves them alone suffer from separation anxiety. When symptoms occur randomly, it can mean a disordered thinking and decreased mental capacity. Dogs suffering from depression also show signs of increased anxiety.

Aggressive Behavior

Increased aggression is common when there is a change in the dog's surroundings. Decreased mental capacity also causes an increase in aggressive behaviour. Dogs that are confused or forgetful will become aggressive with owners and other pets. Normally calm dogs that demonstrate aggressive behaviour show signs of mental deterioration and an underlying mental disorder.

Lethargic Behavior

Normally energetic dogs that show decreased activity can be suffering from mental illness. Dogs suffer from depression much like humans. Since they cannot cry and show their feelings, owners need to look for changes in behaviour to diagnose their mental conditions. Many times, depressed dogs will quit playing their favourite games, stop wanting attention and seek isolation. You may see self-mutilation and a decrease in appetite.

Forgetting House-Training

One of the first signs of mental illness in dogs is frequent house-training accidents. Dogs that soil their surroundings when isolated suffer from separation anxiety. This can also be a sign of decreased mental capacity or the beginning stages of Alzheimer's disease. When dogs begin urinating throughout the house you need to find the underlying cause before you can begin treatment. A veterinary examination can help determine if the problem is a physical or mental condition.

Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

Chuck Pere has been a freelance content writer since 2008. He worked as a paralegal and freelance designer for 15 years. He also writes pet-care articles for the website ScoutsPetCare and has ghost-written several eBooks on Internet marketing, graphic design and traveling. Pere attended the University of Louisiana, where he studied graphic design and computer animation.