Psychological disorders in dogs or dysthymia: explanations

Dysthymia is a very specific psychological pathology in dogs. Fortunately, rarely, it manifests itself in phases during which the owner no longer recognizes his little companion. During phases of hyperactivity, the dog is hyper-alert, anxious, and may suddenly show aggression for no apparent reason. In the phases of depression, on the contrary, he withdraws into himself and is not at all interested in what surrounds him. Often difficult to tolerate by the master, this pathology can be limited or managed with treatments, most often given for life. Let’s sum up this strange disease.

Psychological disorders in dogs or dysthymia: what is it? What is its origin?

Unpredictable and recurring mood disorders called dysthymiarare but very real in dogs. These are mood swings that happen spontaneously. This can be dangerous for the animal, as well as for people and animals around it, as such out-of-control behavior can be spectacular. Are we talking about bipolar or bipolar disorder?.

Although the causes of the pathology are not clearly established, it seems possible to identify two sources.

  • Genetic origin: There is a genetic origin, in particular because certain lines of dogs are particularly affected, such as Cockers, but also Pyrenean breeds, Bichon Frize, Bull Terriers, Dobermans or even Vestas.
  • Hormonal Origins: Hormonal origins seem to play a role as well.

What are the symptoms of dysthymia in dogs?

Canine dysthymia is a disorder that can take two forms: unipolar dysthymia and bipolar dysthymia.

In most cases, the first symptoms appear in dogs between 1 and 3 years of age. This phenomenon is especially confusing for the dog owner, who no longer recognizes his animal or may think he has gone crazy. Pathology is manifested by the occurrence and alternation of phases, which are repeated more or less regularly and repeatedly. Therefore, be careful not to attribute the following symptoms to dysthymia if they appear only from time to time.

Symptoms of unipolar dysthymia

An animal suffering from unipolar dysthymia has phases of hyperactivity. This hyperactivity is expressed in various types of behavior:

  • increased alertness, causing the animal to react sharply to the slightest stimulus;
  • more anxiety;
  • excessive excitement;
  • short and restless sleep;
  • contact tracing;
  • threats (grunting) when approaching unwanted or for no apparent reason;
  • sudden, sometimes violent aggression;
  • appropriation of items that the animal refuses to return;
  • increased appetite with possible regurgitation followed by repeated eating, bulimia;
  • dilated, fixed pupils;
  • the animal tries to catch its tail and spins in circles or swallows imaginary flies.

Symptoms of bipolar dysthymia

When a dog suffers from bipolar dysthymia, it alternates between the so-called productive phases, which are characterized by hyperactivity and the symptoms we have just mentioned, and phases of depression.

In the latter case, the animal may show the following symptoms:

  • the animal is prostrate;
  • he isolates himself;
  • he sleeps a lot;
  • he is indifferent to his surroundings;
  • he loses his appetite.

How to treat dysthymia in dogs?

When a pet owner suspects dysthymia or notices some of the above symptoms in their pet, or if these symptoms come in waves during the phases, it is imperative that a veterinarian be consulted because only a veterinarian can make a diagnosis.

To alleviate this phenomenon, practitioners prescribe mood-regulating drugs such as seleginine, which, unfortunately, has to be taken for life.

Finding the right dosage of medication can take some time, and for some dogs it is not possible to find good stabilization that completely suppresses this behavior. In this case, it is important to always be on the lookout, because these animals can show sudden violence at any time up to biting or attacking its owner with ferocity.

This aggressive behavior is completely out of control. Even the meekest of dogs can suddenly attack its owner or a third person for no apparent reason, becoming a victim is a psychiatric disorder. It’s not a lack of education.

In parallel with the ongoing treatment, it is necessary to ensure that the environment is adapted to the suffering dog. It should be calm, soothing, without harsh sounds and it is important to avoid any sudden changes that may disturb the dog. Ideally, there should be a space in the dog’s home where the animal can be isolated in case of a crisis or during the visit of guests, especially children, with everything necessary so that it does not need anything.

let’s remember this this disorder is unpredictable, as well as human bipolarity. Therefore, you must always be vigilant and attentive to avoid accidents. The help of a behavioral veterinarian may be welcome to help the animal live with its disease and support its owner in crisis management.

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