The Dog Box

2017-09-07 06:01

Hi Susan, I have been so worried about my dog lately. I have taken him to various vets and yet they can’t find anything wrong. I have so many worries of my own, and now I am starting to feel as though I am a hypochondriac about my dog too. Should I be seeing a psychologist?


Thank you for the question. I am sure that any vet would rather have you err on the side of over-reaction than the opposite. Many diseases caught early are more likely to result in complete recovery. Secondly, if there are signs that all is not well, your dog might be suffering unnecessarily if the symptoms are ignored. Seen in this light, being an observant and caring pet guardian is not something to shy from.

However, dogs have been shown to reflect their owners’ emotional states which can create a heavy stress burden with consequent negative effects on their health. Note that dogs sense that their owners’ have problems, and they feel concerned.

If an owner is sick or depressed, a close pet companion may mirror this, showing signs of illness or depression as they try to cope with the change in their owner’s behaviour and routine.

A depressed owner may become quiet and less “playful,” causing the dog to respond in the same manner as he mourns the fun side of the relationship which has come to an end. And don’t forget that dogs are very sensitive to mood changes in their loved ones.

This reactive behaviour can then cause the animal’s immune system to weaken, resulting in health issues. Even if there are no health problems, a depressed dog will exhibit similar behaviour to a sick dog. Anxious, stressed owners will be mirrored by their pet dogs.

The enormous stresses of the hectic age we live in are obviously reflected in the home, so our pets’ lives are also very different from more those enjoyed in more leisurely times. Very few families take their dogs out on stimulating walks, let alone ensure they have adequate physical and mental stimulation at home. Behaviour and health problems are more likely to arise in dogs that are either bored or depressed, or often both. It’s so important to recognise that, like humans, dogs and other animals need more than food, water and shelter. Necessarily confined to relatively small areas in our gardens, they are virtually captives. Supplying adequate opportunities for companionship, stimulation and outlets for your pet’s natural behaviours and talents will result in a much happier and healthier companion.

Calm humans influence calm canines! So try to avoid betraying overt signs of stress or depression if you’re having a hard time.

Also remember that petting and playing with your dog is therapeutic for both of you.

Susan Henderson©

(accredited animal behaviour consultant) Phone 082 386 5805.


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