For the most part, people picture dogs to be happy-go-lucky creatures, blissfully chasing after balls and gobbling up treats. But sadly, not all dogs live life with such gusto. Like humans, some dogs suffer from mental illness, brought on by trauma, abandonment, or abuse. And believe it or not, some dogs even turn to self-harm as a coping mechanism.
Consider Louie, a young dog who became a stray upon the passing of his owner.
In the kennel, Louie began to exhibit signs of stress. “He spins, salivates, barks and tries to eat the floor,” explained Kennel manager Sam Simpson. Despite medication, Louie has started to chew on his own tail to cope with his circumstances.
But self-harm isn’t limited to dogs who experience trauma. Dr. Michelle Posage writes that biting, licking, and sucking to the point of injury can all be indicators of obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Of course, this behavior can also be caused by allergies or infection, but it’s vital that dog owners stay acutely aware of their dog’s wellbeing, both physical and mental. If your pup is, in fact, self-harming, pay attention to what might trigger this behavior, and discuss the details with your vet. There are several ways to treat mental illness in dogs, including stress reduction, physical restraints (like the cone of shame), and medication. It may be hard to come to terms with the fact that your furry friend is sick. But with support and care, you can help restore your pup’s health and happiness.