The link between mental and physical health in animals

In recent times, new concepts from human medical science have been utilised in research on animals, to help improve the overall health of our pets. Here, we discuss how mental health in animals can impact their physical health – one of the new concepts being developed in modern-day veterinary medicine. How pet owners’ mental health is affected and/or improved by owning a pet, has been scientifically proven already.

Healthy mind

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health refers to a state of wellbeing in which an individual realises their abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and can contribute to their society. Therefore, in the absence of good mental health, the resulting stress can, directly and indirectly, impact the physical health of an individual, among other measures of health.

When it comes to animals – like cats and dogs – poor mental health/mental illness is reported to produce similar effects on their quality of life, health and longevity.

In some instances, the poor mental health of pets can negatively impact the lives of their human families. An American study concluded that anxious and fearful pets live shorter lives in comparison to pets without those conditions. Furthermore, chronic stress exacerbates a number of health problems, such as heart disease and skin conditions.

State of health

A big question is how someone can prove that their pet truly suffers from mental health issues. Well, admittedly so, that is a very difficult question. Thankfully, animals leave clues that assist us in interpreting their state of health. For many pet owners, however, behavioural or mental health problems often go undetected until they become severe, as pets cannot express how they feel the same way humans can. Once behavioural issues are detected, treatment is thus warranted. If untreated, some affected animals can begin to display self-harming behaviours.

 

To read about the five examples of mental health/behavioural conditions that could plague our furry friends, get the November 2021 copy of Animaltalk magazine from retail stores, or order a digital or print copy from www.coolmags.co.za.

 

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