VICTORIA – A vacation is typically met with excitement, but instead Shyloe Fayad found herself experiencing stress surrounding what to do about Tony, her four-year-old Bichon Frise.
Tony suffers from severe separation anxiety, which means Fayad has had to shift her life to reflect the needs of her dog.
“Luckily my friends (who also have a dog) offered to watch him while I was in Nicaragua,” said Fayad. “I kept making sure they really understood what it meant when I said ‘Tony can’t be alone.'”
Fayad, who lives in Swift Current, Sask., said the man who offered to care for Tony found himself taking the dog to work with him.
“Basically he is never alone,” she said. “The only time we leave him is when we get groceries and even then we’re constantly checking to make sure we haven’t left him too long.”
According to Stanley Coren, author of “Do Dogs Dream?” and professor emeritus of psychology at the University of British Columbia, diagnosing anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses in dogs isn’t unusual because they share a similar neurochemistry to humans.
He said there has been a lot of research to indicate dogs exhibit symptoms of depression much like a two- to 2 1/2-year-old child would.
“You’re dealing with something that’s non-verbal, which means symptoms will be mostly behavioural, such as loss of appetite, lethargy and failure to respond to play opportunities that used to make the dog very happy,” said Coren.
The identification of depression in dogs began in the early 1980s when Nicholas Dodman, Tufts University’s professor section head and program director for the dog behaviour department of clinical sciences, was looking at the symptoms dogs were having.