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Mental illness 'a common problem' for pets

October 04, 2017

Mental illness 'a common problem' for pets

The last few years have seen a growing awareness of mental issues among humans, but many pet owners think their furry friends have been suffering too.

A study by Direct Line Pet Insurance has found 42 per cent of dog owners believe their pooches have been struggling with the kind of problems normally only associated with their owners, such as stress, anxiety and depression.

Around 26 per cent said their dogs suffered from separation anxiety and 25 per cent believed stress was a problem. This has been manifested in behaviours and conditions like diarrhoea, excessive coat shedding or pinning back their ears.

Others said their dogs had suffered from eating disorders, sleep deprivation, hyperactivity, obsessive compulsive disorder and even grief, with events such as traumatic incidents leading to psychological problems.

The recognition of such problems shows it is not just purely physical ailments or accidents that could have a detrimental effect on canine health. The high incidence of mental conditions in dogs is compared with a 22 per cent reported rate of physical problems. Among the latter, a quarter of cases are arthritis, just under a fifth are weight issues and around six per cent concern heart disease.

Commenting on the research, Madeline Pike, a veterinary nurse at Direct Line Pet Insurance said: “Pets are often relied on for comfort by their owners when they are upset or stressed. However, dogs are sensitive, emotionally intelligent animals that also respond to the environment around them. We can rely on our dogs to cheer us up when we are feeling down. However, it is important we reciprocate this dependency by ensuring that the environment in the home is as positive as possible."

Failure to do this can have a negative effect on dog mood and behaviour, she noted. 

Knowing how to look after a dog is important for those who own them or want to have one. 

A survey by Sainsbury's Bank found they are Britain's favourite pet, with 46 per cent expressing a preference for them over cats, whereas only 30 per cent preferred feline company.

This article is intended as generic information only and is not intended to apply to anybody’s specific circumstances, demands or needs. The views expressed are not intended to provide any financial service or to give any recommendation or advice. Products and services are only mentioned for illustrative rather than promotional purposes.

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