- Dog owners believe their pets are suffering from psychological disorders, including separation anxiety (26 per cent), stress (25 per cent) and depression (10 per cent)
- Owners urged to create less stressful environments for pets in the home
- Many owners believe they are negatively affecting their pets’ mental health by passing on their own anxiety and depression
- Two fifths of dog owners (42 per cent) believe their pets have developed conditions usually associated with their owners including heart disease and obesity
Dogs across the UK are suffering from ‘human conditions’ reveals new research from Direct Line Pet Insurance1. In the last 12 months, two fifths of dog owners (42 per cent) believe their pets have developed conditions usually associated with their owners, such as stress, depression, heart disease and obesity.
Dog owners believe their pets are suffering from psychological disorders, including separation anxiety (26 per cent) and stress (25 per cent). Dogs that are stressed may exhibit a host of symptoms such as excessively shedding their coats, pinning back their ears, diarrhoea, or demonstrating destructive behaviours such as chewing furniture. One in ten (ten per cent) believe their dog has suffered from depression in the last year.
One in 12 pet owners who recognised an illness (eight per cent) is concerned their dog had an eating disorder, while one in twenty (six per cent) believe their dog has suffered from grief. The causes of these conditions vary, although a previous traumatic event is thought to be the reason why one in six (16 per cent) dogs suffers from a psychological condition such as OCD, separation anxiety, PTSD or grief.
Table one: ‘Human’ conditions suffered by dogs
|Condition||Percentage of dog owners who believe their dog has suffered with this condition2|
|Separation anxiety||26 per cent|
|Stress||25 per cent|
|Depression||10 per cent|
|Hyperactivity||10 per cent|
|Eating disorder||8 per cent|
|Grief||6 per cent|
|Sleep deprivation||5 per cent|
|Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)||4 per cent|
|Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)||3 per cent|
|Arthritis||25 per cent|
|Obesity / overweight||18 per cent|
|Heart disease||6 per cent|
|High blood pressure||5 per cent|
|Epilepsy||5 per cent|
|Diabetes||4 per cent|
|Lung disease||3 per cent|
Source: Direct Line Pet Insurance 2017
In the same way that children can be susceptible to mirroring their parents’ stresses, some owners think they are the ones to blame for their pets’ problems. One in seven (13 per cent) believe they are guilty of passing on their anxiety to their dog, while one in ten think they have passed on their depression. Stress within the home was listed as a cause for concern (12 per cent), as were arguments within the home (nine per cent).
Madeline Pike, Veterinary Nurse at Direct Line Pet Insurance said: “Pets are often relied on for comfort by their owners when they are upset or stressed. However, dogs are sensitive, emotionally intelligent animals that also respond to the environment around them. We can rely on our dogs to cheer us up when we are feeling down. However, it is important we reciprocate this dependency by ensuring that the environment in the home is as positive as possible so we don’t negatively affect our dogs’ behaviour.”
Over a fifth of owners (22 per cent) report their dogs as suffering from serious physical conditions. These include arthritis (25 per cent), being overweight or obese (18 per cent) and heart disease (six per cent).
To deal with the conditions suffered by their dogs, the majority of owners (57 per cent) sought professional medical advice from a vet. A third (33 per cent) chose to treat it themselves, while nearly a fifth (16 per cent) asked for help from dog specialists like behavioural or psychological therapists.
Table two: Causes of ‘human’ conditions in dogs
|Cause of condition||Percentage of dog owners who think this is the reason their dog has suffered2|
|Not enough exercise||20 per cent|
|Too many treats||17 per cent|
|Too much food||17 per cent|
|Previous traumatic event||16 per cent|
|Your anxiety||13 per cent|
|Being left alone too often||13 per cent|
|The wrong type of diet||12 per cent|
|Stress within the home||12 per cent|
|Your depression||10 per cent|
|Arguments within the home||9 per cent|
Source: Direct Line Pet Insurance 2017
Sarah Page-Jones, Head Vet at PawSquad, an online pet health consultation service said: “As our human lives get busier and more complex, we may become distracted and stressed by our own schedules and, as a result, spend less time with our pets. Pets often pick up on our stress and can become anxious when left alone, and this can affect their wellbeing. Although it’s not always appropriate to extrapolate human conditions directly to animals, it is becoming increasingly important to take time to understand our pets’ behaviours and act to reduce the risk of stress-related disease.
“Many psychological and behavioural conditions are not covered by Pet Insurance policies; however, there are lots of practical online guides offering valuable advice for owners to help them take proactive steps to manage their pets’ mental health. If pet owners are concerned, PawSquad offers affordable online consultations with experienced veterinary surgeons that can be accessed anytime, from anywhere.”
Top tips for making your home a happier place for dogs
- Talking to your dog benefits both you and your pet. Even though your dog may not understand what you are saying, it allows them to become more familiar with your voice and can be relaxing.
- Food is king. Purchasing good quality dog food and putting more thought into what you feed your dog, will keep them healthy and put a smile on their face. More importantly, always ensure your dog can have drink at their leisure – this will make them feel they are more at home and allow them to cool down in warmer temperatures.
- Pets like routine, so be consistent and keep to a routine as much as possible for feeding, walking and bedtime.
- Give your dog access to a safe hiding place so if they are stressed, they can escape if they feel afraid.
- Dogs are intelligent animals and can become easily bored so make sure they have access to suitable toys and objects to chew.
Direct Line Pet Insurance’s partnership with PawSquad offers its customers access to live chat and video calls with qualified, experienced vets to discuss their pet’s needs 24/7.