Dysthymia is a specific psychological pathology in dogs. Fortunately rare, it manifests itself in phases where the master no longer recognizes his little companion. During the phases of hyperactivity, the dog is overly cautious, anxious, he can suddenly show himself aggressive, for no apparent reason. During periods of depression, he, on the contrary, withdraws from himself and is completely disinterested in what surrounds him. Often difficult to bring for the master, this pathology can be limited or managed through treatments, usually administered throughout life. Let’s examine this rare disease.
Psychological disorder in dogs or dysthymia: what is it? What is its origin?
Unpredictable and recurrent mood disorder, named dysthymia, is rare, but very true in dogs. These are mood swings that occur spontaneously. It can be dangerous for the animal and the people and animals around it, because these uncontrollable behaviors can be rare. We are talking about bipolarity or bipolar disorder.
Although the causes of the pathology are not clearly known, it seems possible to identify two sources.
- Genetic origin: there is a genetic origin, especially because some lines of dogs are particularly affected, such as Cockers, but also Berges des Pyrénées, Bichons frisés, Bull terriers, Dobermans or even Westies.
- Hormonal sources: hormonal sources are also involved.
What are the symptoms of dysthymia in dogs?
Canine dysthymia is a disease that can have two forms: unipolar dysthymia and bipolar dysthymia.
In most cases, the first symptoms appear in dogs aged 1 to 3 years. This phenomenon is especially confusing for the owner of the dog, who no longer knows his animal or who may think that he is crazy. Pathology is shown by progressing and changing phases that appear again more or less frequently and repeatedly. So be careful not to attribute the following symptoms to dysthymia if they appear infrequently.
Symptoms of unipolar dysthymia
An animal suffering from unipolar dysthymia shows periods of time where it is hyperactive. This hyperactivity translates into different types of behavior:
- increased alertness that causes the animal to overreact to the slightest stimulus;
- greater anxiety;
- too much trouble;
- short and restless sleep;
- contact tracing;
- threats (grunts) when approaching unwanted or for no apparent reason;
- sudden, sometimes violent aggression;
- the allocation of things that the animal does not return;
- increased appetite, with possible regurgitation followed by reingestion of food, bulimia;
- dilated, fixed pupils;
- the animal tries to catch its tail and turn in circles or it swallows imaginary flies.
Symptoms of Bipolar Dysthymia
When the dog suffers from bipolar dysthymia, he alternates between the so-called productive phases, characterized by hyperactivity and the symptoms we just mentioned, and the phases of depression.
In the latter case, the animal may show the following symptoms:
- the animal is prostrate;
- he set himself apart;
- he sleeps a lot;
- he is indifferent to his surroundings;
- he will lose his appetite.
How to treat dysthymia in dogs?
If the owner suspects dysthymia or notices some of the symptoms mentioned above in his animal, and if these symptoms appear in waves during the phases, it is necessary to consult the veterinarian, because only he can diagnosis.
To alleviate this phenomenon, practitioners prescribe mood-regulating treatments, such as seleginine, which unfortunately must be administered throughout life.
Finding the right dose of medication can take time and for some dogs it is impossible to find a good reinforcement that will completely stop these behaviors. In this case, it is important to be careful at all times, because these animals can show sudden violence at any time to the point of biting or attacking their master with cruelty.
These aggressive behaviors are completely out of control. Even the most gentle of dogs can suddenly attack his master or a third party for no apparent reason, victim of this psychiatric pathology. It’s not a lack of education.
Similar to the treatment put in place, it is necessary to ensure that an environment is adapted to the suffering dog. It should be calm, soothing, without sudden noise and it is important to avoid any sudden changes that disturb the doggie. Ideally, the dog house should have a space where the animal can be isolated in case of a crisis or during the visit of visitors, especially children, with all the necessary so that nothing is missing.
let’s remember that this disease is unpredictable, as well as human bipolarity. So it is necessary to be careful and attentive at all times to avoid accidents. The help of a behavioral veterinarian may be welcome to help the animal survive its illness and support its owner in crisis management.