Despite our dogs’ seemingly eternal state of happiness, even they aren’t immune to the struggles associated with mental illness and diagnosing mental disorders in dogs are a real challenge. Our furry friends show signs of distress caused by common conditions like OCD, depression, and anxiety so why not bipolar disorder? Biochemical imbalances in dogs, as in humans, can be responsible for physical, neurological, and behavioral problems.
In 2016, I spoke with Nicholas H. Dodman BVMS, DACVA, DACVB, former director of the animal behavior clinic at the Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and a pioneer in the study of OCD in dogs. I inquired if it was possible for dogs to suffer from bipolar disorder. While I did not get a no answer and yes answer was not offered either.
Unlike diabetes or cancer, there is no medical test that can provide a diagnosis of mental illness. For humans, health care professional can do a number of things in an evaluation, including a physical exam and long-term monitoring to rule out any underlying medical conditions that may cause symptoms. Doctors use their experience to determine how your set of symptoms fits into what we know about mental health. But the question-and-answer protocol used to diagnose people cannot be achieved with our dogs.
There is much controversy about whether dogs can suffer from bipolar disorder but since doctors have proven they suffer ranging from depression to anxiety to PTSD to obsessive-compulsive disorders, I feel they can have a type of bipolar issues that can affect their quality of life. Mental illness with dogs tends to show up more often when they have been mistreated or in captivity. The chemicals in the brain can ignite a mental illness when a dog is poorly treated and unable to cope. While mental illness in a pet is disturbing, most issues are treatable if diagnosed. Dogs, as with humans, can most definitely live full and happy lives if mental health issues are diagnosed and cared for properly.
Bipolar disorder can be treated with behavior therapy but also SSRI medication in extreme cases. Fluoxetine is the generic doggy Prozac and can be used to battle the manic swings your pup may be having.