Does your dog have a mental illness?

Photo Credit : Hannah Lim

Many pet owners may notice their dog suddenly showing strange, unusual behaviours. But when should you be concerned? Growing mental health awareness has moved on to the world of pets, with a lot of pet owners turning to the internet to discover how to look after their dog’s mental wellbeing. If you’re concerned about your dog’s wellbeing, or just want to ensure your dog is living a happy, healthy life, it’s definitely worth learning about some of the most common signs of mental health conditions in dogs. This article will outline a number of possible mental health disorders your dog could possess.


Anxiety is extremely common in dogs, especially separation anxiety. Breeds such as Labradors and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are more prone to separation anxiety. According to Lords & Labradors, the term ‘dog separation anxiety’ is searched 8,100 times a month on average- suggesting it is an issue dog owners are extremely concerned about.

Some signs of anxiety in dogs can range from:
  • Constant barking
  • Negative behaviour
  • Whimpering
  • Self-harm
  • Vomiting
  • Trembling
  • Destroying furniture or household items

Anxiety in dogs can also be caused by fear (e.g., due to loud noises), and age (e.g., due to disorders such as cognitive dysfunction syndrome which actively affects a dog’s perception consciousness and memory).


If you’re wondering whether dogs can become depressed, the answer is yes. A dog’s condition isn’t as complicated as depression in humans, but dogs can suffer from intense sadness and show similar symptoms. Some of these symptoms can be:

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Loss of appetite
  • Withdrawal
  • Spending less time playing
  • A reduced interest in exercise, going for walks, etc.
  • Lethargy

If you have noticed any of these symptoms, it is important to consider if anything has recently changed in your dog’s life. For example, your dog could be depressed due to a lack of exercise- therefore, you need to take your dog out more often. If trying to tackle the issue doesn’t appear to have any effect, you should take your dog to the vet immediately.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

OCD is the excessive repetition of a certain activity or behaviour. Some examples of a dog’s compulsive behaviour could include:

  • Spinning
  • Pacing
  • Chewing
  • Air-snapping
  • Freezing and staring
  • Drinking water excessively
  • Licking

Your dog’s mental health is certainly something you take care of and maintain. If your dog has a noticeable change in its behaviour, it is important to take your dog to the vet right away.