Who thinks that their pet may be experiencing some sort of mental health related issue? This could be anything ranging from separation anxiety, barking, and aggression, to going to the toilet where they aren’t meant to, or having skin and coat issues. Well don’t worry because you are not alone. Recent studies have shown that approximately 20% of domestic pets in Australia suffer from a mental health related problem.
This April, we are focusing on these mental health problems to help you and your pet live a more comfortable life. Pets are very perceptive, and generally speaking the more stressed you are, the more anxious they become.Veterinary behaviourist Caroline Perrin from Sydney Animal Behaviour Services, says that “Treating behaviour problems and mental illness in animals is at the forefront of veterinary medicine. It is one of the latest specialities to develop because it is the most complex. Anxiety in pets is a silent epidemic and treating broken minds is just as important if not more important as fixing broken bones or treating cancer or diabetes.”
It’s normal for dogs to experience anxiety as it gives them the ability to prepare and respond to a threat. Anxiety can lead to significant physical changes such as an increased heart rate and blood pressure and it’s believed these changes contribute to the emotion of fear. Responding to threats is normal behaviour but when a dog can’t cope with small changes in any new or unfamiliar situations it may develop an anxiety disorder. One response to anxiety is aggression. Anxiety and fear can lead to phobias, which can cause a dog acute, ongoing distress.
Mental health and anxiety can be quite subtle in cats. Fear is the normal automatic response that prepares the cat to either freeze, flee or fight, depending on the threat. Phobias are an abnormal, excessive and instant response to fear, even when there is nothing to be fearful of. Responding to threats is vital to a cat’s survival but if your cat is exhibiting fearful behaviour in normal situations, it may require help.
Likewise to cats, birds hide anxiety and fear very well. Pet birds can show signs in response to things that we may not consider to be dangerous, such as a new cage, new furniture or new people. Ongoing fear can be detrimental to a bird’s physical and mental health. Your bird can exhibit both subtle and obvious responses to situations that cause it anxiety. It may freeze or fidget or employ their ‘flight’ or ‘fight’ defence mechanisms. As your pet usually can’t fly away, it will instead, move away or hide. A ‘fight’ or an aggressive response is a huge problem for you, your bird and any other household members, including pets.
Come in and see us for a free behaviour guide and to discuss how we can help with your pet’s behaviour issue. Follow along on social media for great tips and solutions throughout the month.
Click below for some handy reference papers.