ANIMAL DEPRESSION PT 1- IS MY ANIMAL DEPRESSED?
Akin to humans, companion animals experience several types of depression. Animals are acutely sensitive to all of their environmental factors. Many of these factors become triggers for depression and other mood disorders. There are many, many triggers in an animal’s life that can create mental, emotional and spiritual un-wellness.
Because companion animals feel that it is their duty to remove all distress from their people, animals can often become depressed in doing so for one of many reasons; three of which will be explained in this article. The first reason is that animals are like sponges. This is to say that if a companion animal is living alongside a depressed person or people, the energy that these people are emitting will, without a doubt, impact the mental health of the animal. Companion animals feel that it is their role in our lives to keep us from as much pain and suffering as possible. Though, of course they are unable to do so, in their minds they are. Animals feel responsible for our mental, physical, emotional and spiritual wellness. Of course it is unreasonable for us to expect ourselves to keep away from being depressed or having bad days. However, once informed, we are able to identify with how our moods affect or animal companions and take steps to ensure that we lessen the negative impact on them which will be discussed in the third part of this article.
The second reason for companion animal –human related depression is perhaps the most significant. Animals feel that it is their role to maintain emotional, mental and spiritual balance in the home. In fact, almost all companion animals make it their mission to bring peace and harmony to the home. However when they feel as though they have failed this role, they become very depleted and depressed. Companion animals use all of their might to bring joy, mental and emotional health and peace to their people. If all of their might is used up, they have no more energy to give, yet they will relentlessly try. Once they have become energetically depleted and feel as though their mission to bring peace has not been completed, they will fall into depression.
The third reason that a companion animal may become depressed alongside their people is through their lack of being heard. In so many households, there is a major lack of communication between animal and people. Often animals feel misunderstood in the home. An animal will often try several times in several different ways to communicate a message to her people. If left feeling unheard, the animal will become depressed and often act out in an attempt to further get her message across. Sadly, in most cases, this “misunderstood” behaviour leads to undue punishment which further intensifies the companion animal’s depression.
In addition to familial triggers of depression, there is another environmental factor that can often (but not always!) weigh heavily on an animal’s mental health. Just like for humans, the winter months can cause seasonal affective disorder in companion animals. With the days getting shorter, fewer daytime hours and colder temperatures, some animals become depressed. Sometimes dogs who love winter can become depressed because their people are too cold to want to give them the daily exercise they would love to have. Animals who are sensitive to darkness may become depressed without hours upon hours of daylight.
Animals may often experience depression if they are physically unable to enjoy their lives. When an animal’s mobility is compromised, he or she may become depressed as a result of not being able to run, play or guard the home. Often this is due to injury itself however animals also regularly experience minor skeletal imbalances that can create an inability to live her or his life comfortably. It is particularly important to pay attention to the way an animal walks to see if the spine or limbs seem unbalanced. Upon first sight of any imbalance, seeking care from an animal chiropractor is always the highest and best form to heal the skeletal system.
It goes without saying that neglect is an unfortunately common cause of depression in companion animals. Animals have very deep feelings and become sad and depressed if they feel ignored on any level. Should humans neglect to walk, feed or play with their animal companions, the animals will question their purpose in the home and in life. When animals are malnourished, they can also become depressed as there are far too few nutrients in the brain and body for the animal to feel mentally and physically healthy. When dogs are not walked or cats’ litter boxes not cleaned properly, the dog and cat will feel helpless and down on themselves for having to eliminate in undesirable places. Naturally speaking, dogs and cats are very clean animals. When dogs are forced to eliminate in the house and cats outside of their boxes due to neglect of their human caregivers, they feel embarrassed. In time this lack of cleanliness will render them helpless and depressed.
A lesser considered yet quite prevalent form of companion animal depression stems from a loss of purpose. Many animals experience a loss of purpose throughout their lifetime. Loss of purpose occurs when an animal’s ‘job’ is taken away. An animal’s job can be anything from herding cattle to being an emotional support animal to being a service animal. For complete mental wellness, all companion animals need jobs. They need a purpose. Should they have a purpose that later gets removed from their life, they will feel as if they have no reason to live.
There are far more reasons that an animal may become depressed. Depending on the individual needs, life experiences and circumstances of an animal’s life, there may be triggers that could impact an animal’s mental wellness that are specific to the animal. It is paramount that all those who care for companion animals get to know each animal they care for on a very individual and personal level. By connecting with our animal companions this way, we are able to acknowledge an act upon her or his needs in order to include them in the most joyful life possible!
In part 2 of this article, we will identify 6 signs that your animal may depressed followed by 5 effective methods of treatment.
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