Psychosis can be described as an illness that causes erratic behavior, personality changes and a loss of sense of reality. It is a fairly common mental illness for humans, but can it be experienced by dogs? Continue reading to learn more about the symptoms and their meaning.
Signs a Dog is Psychotic
You should take your dog to the vet if you suspect that your dog has a mental breakdown. A licensed veterinarian should be able help your dog with a variety of behavioral or medical issues.
- Sudden mood swings. Psychosis in dogs can cause them to be happy and content one minute, then become angry and ready for trouble the next.
- Hallucinations. Psychosis is a separation from reality. The dog might not be aware that it’s acting strangely. Dogs can hallucinate things or people and then react to these thoughts even though they don’t exist. Your dog might be barking, growling or staring into space.
- Unusual responses to normal stimuli. Your dog may be acting strangely if he is eating his food.
- Inability to respond to human commands. Most dogs obey their owners’ commands or acknowledge that they don’t do what they’re told. Psychosis is when your dog doesn’t respond to your commands or ignores you completely.
Psychosis was a common condition in early evolution when dogs were essentially wolves. The topic is not well researched. Researchers are still trying to determine how humans domesticated wild wolves in order to create the dogs we know today. Any weakness or impediment to survival in the wild would likely result in death. A wolf suffering from psychosis, or any other illness, would be either killed by their pack or left behind. Survival of the Fittest means that mentally or physically sick wolves don’t make it to the next stage.
Dogs have been known to suffer from anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and other mental disorders in the past. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), is a condition that can be seen in dogs who have served in the military. Dogs that survive major natural disasters like earthquakes or tsunamis can also develop symptoms of PTSD. Dogs who have been through trauma are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, and OCD.
Psychosis and the History of Dogs
Early in evolution, when dogs were essentially wolves, it’s hard to say whether they experienced psychosis. There aren’t enough studies regarding the topic; researchers are still unsure how early humans domesticated wild wolves into the pups we have today. It’s likely that any weakness or obstacle to being able to fulfill survival duties in the wild would result in death. If a wolf was experiencing psychosis or any illness for that matter, they would either be left behind by the pack, killed, or cause their own death. Survival of the fittest meant mentally or physically sick wolves didn’t make it to the next level.
Dogs have been known to suffer from anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and other mental disorders in the past. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), is a condition that can be seen in dogs who have served in the military. Dogs that survive major natural disasters like earthquakes or tsunamis can also experience symptoms of PTSD. Dogs who have been through trauma are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, and OCD.
Psychosis in Dogs: The Science of Dogs
According to scientists, your dog’s psychotic behavior might not be a symptom of an emotional or mental disorder. It’s already been proven that dogs can’t be schizophrenic because they lack the “human accelerated regions” of their genomes that humans innately have. However, dogs can experience other brain-related disorders that can result in psychotic behavior. For example, psychosis in dogs is sometimes a side effect of epilepsy, a neurological disorder that causes the sufferer to experience seizures, confusion, and loss of consciousness.
Dogs can’t tell you what is wrong or hurtful, but their behavior may give clues. One owner shared with us how her dog was having hallucinations. It seemed like he was trying catch a fly in the sky that didn’t exist. It was later discovered that the dog had epilepsy. The hallucinations were a symptom of this post-seizure condition. It is best to keep an eye on your dog to determine if it is acting abnormally and to seek behavioral and medical guidance.
How to treat your dog’s psychosis
Once you’ve noticed strange and unwanted behavior in your dog, it’s time to get the vet or an animal behaviorist involved. First, they’ll want to know what the behaviors your dog is exhibiting are and what could potentially be triggering them. They’ll need to know as much about the dog’s history, medical and trauma-related, as possible. To rule out mental illnesses like PTSD, depression, and anxiety, it must be clear that there are no obvious triggers for their behavior and no past trauma they could be reliving.
A second test is a blood and urine test to determine the level of hormones in your dog and check for parasites. You may not be able to determine if your dog is physically sick. They could also have a hormonal imbalance that affects their mood and other aspects. Your vet might prescribe medication depending on the diagnosis. Your dog may need training from a behaviorist. Psychotic behavior can be a sign of something more serious in your dog’s mind and body.