How to tell if your dog needs a pet psychologist
Does your poodle have mood swings? Is your Jack Russell Terrier a little too high strung? Does your Rottweiler seem to be having nightmares? Does your Sharpei seem to be depressed? Wondering if a pet psychiatrist might benefit your furry best friend? In this article, we’re going to look at what a pet psychiatrist does, how much these types of services costs, and what you can expect from taking your dog to a pet psychiatrist.
Pet psychiatrists are veterinarians who treat pets (usually dogs or cats) who exhibit behavioral problems. Statistics show that behavioral problems, left unexamined, are one of the main reasons people give up their pets to shelters or have them put to sleep. Just like in human relationships, a behavior problem between a dog and his owner can be frustrating and damage the relationship.
Veterinary behavior consultants or psychiatrists usually make in-home visits to observe and evaluate the pet’s behavior in his own environment. Just like the intake process when humans treat with a new doctor for the first time, the doctor will go through a thorough questionnaire with the dog’s owners to get an idea of the situation, health issues, family dynamics, etc. Then he/she will work directly with the dog and create a treatment plan, usually involving behavioral training between pet and owner and schedule follow-up visits for ongoing consulting.
Sometimes the treatment plan can involve use of medication, affectionately known as “doggie downers.” Yes, even dogs can be prescribed antidepressants, valium, and other medication. The FDA has approved some drugs for treating behavioral disorders in dogs. While there isn’t much literature out there on whether or not dogs can actually suffer from mental disorders, they can certainly respond differently to changes in their environment, traumatic experiences, and such. We think of our pups are little people and it’s because they really are very similar to humans. They can experience anxiety and separation disorders, have fears, and become depressed.
Because our pets can’t verbalize their feelings, scientists find it hard to quantify the absence or presence of emotions in pets. They talk about a condition known as behavioral depression in dogs, whose symptoms are usually reduced activity and lethargy. The underlying medical condition can sometimes be the cause of the depression. Pets grieve when their owner dies or there is a divorce that separates them from their human “parent.” In technical terms, this is known as atypical separation anxiety and can be evidenced when pets stop eating as much and actually seem to be depressed. Anti-anxiety medications are used to treat depression in dogs when these symptoms occur.
Veterinarians estimate that a substantial percentage of dog owners dismiss their dog’s condition as bad behavior when it can sometimes be the result of a medical condition. When in doubt or when the behavior extends for a long period of time, it’s best to take the dog to the veterinarian who can first rule out any underlying medical issues. If there aren’t any underlying medical issues, your personal veterinarian can refer you to a psychiatric veterinarian to address the behavioral issues.
Many canine behavior problems have successfully been treated by veterinary behaviorist through behavioral and environmental modification.
The cost for dog psychiatrist therapy varies across the country, but in general, a two-hour in-home consultation range between $300 and $500 and follow-up visits or follow-up support pricing varies depending on the initial diagnosis.