Can Dogs Be Retarded or Have Mental Disorders?

Can Dogs Be Retarded or Have Mental Disorders

Let’s face it. Most dog owners can admit to noticing signs of mental illness in their furry friends but choose to turn a blind eye. To answer the question, can dogs be retarded or mentally challenged?

Yes! Being an organ, the brain is vulnerable to various abnormalities. Therefore, any living being with a brain can suffer mental disorders or challenges, including dogs.

Dogs are just as likely to develop the same mental disorders as humans. Why is that the case? How do you recognize and treat a retarded dog? Read on to find out!

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Can A Dog Suffer From A Mental Disorder?

When we talk about mental disorders in dogs, thoughts of aggressive canines lashing out at their owners and harming strangers come to mind. While there may be some truth to this in a fraction of the entire dog population, most mental disorders in canines are overly obscure that they typically go unnoticed.

However, a dog’s brain is closely similar to that of a human being. Moreover, given that the human mind is susceptible to a wealth of disorders, so can the brain of a canine.

The issue is that a boatload of dog owners ignores or brushes off telltale signs of mental illness as mere behavioral changes. However, the grim reality is that these signs are steering in the direction of a more serious problem that can adversely affect a dog’s quality of life.

Recognizing Mental Disorders in Dogs

Given that mental illnesses are quite discrete, even in humans, diagnosing someone suffering from one can be an uphill battle. Nonetheless, unlike human beings that can share their emotions and put their feelings into ones making it easier to recognize these disorders, dogs cannot.

That’s why the only way you can identify mental illness in a dog is when extreme behavioral changes crop up. It’s important to keep an eye out for abrupt changes in your dog’s typical behavior or the emergence of a new one.

Worse still, dogs suffer more severe forms of mental disorders compared to human beings. Furthermore, these disorders can considerably lower their lifespan.

Unfortunately, a diagnosis is never done. The symptoms are quite discreet, and unlike human beings, autopsies are not performed on dogs after passing away. For this reason, you need to exercise more vigilance when it comes to the health of your dog.

What Are The Common Mental Disorders In Dogs?

As we mentioned earlier, a dog’s brain is closely similar to that of a human. Therefore, it comes as no surprise then that a dog can develop the same mental disorder as a human being due to this similarity.

The silver lining to this is that with careful observation, you can tie these unusual behavioral changes to a certain disorder and treat it accordingly.

Here’s a breakdown of the most common mental disorders in dogs, including their causes, symptoms, and most importantly, how to treat them.

Disorders In Dogs

1. Separation Anxiety

While most dogs are susceptible to one type of anxiety, separation anxiety is by far the most common. It typically crops up when a dog is away from its owner for hours or days on end.

Given that dogs are attention lovers, they become significantly anxious in their owner’s absence. After all, they have no way of knowing if or when they’ll see you again, and as a result, they start panicking and acting out in aggression.


The most telltale signs in dogs suffering from separation anxiety range from frantically crying and barking, restlessness, and yelping, to destructive behavior. Upon coming home, you’ll notice a myriad of bite marks on various objects around your home, such as trash bins, shoes, and furniture.


To keep separation anxiety at bay, we recommend training your dog as early as possible. Teach them your routine, including visual hints such as wearing shoes and picking up keys by the door to prepare them for the times you’re leaving.

Remember to leave your dog with toys and hide a few treats around the house to keep them occupied. If you have a hyperactive puppy, ensure they have company from another pet, friend, neighbor, or family member.

2. Depression

While it’s a disorder that affects human beings, you may not know that dogs can also suffer from depression. Granted, it differs from what human beings experience. However, it manifests itself with nearly the same symptoms.


When dogs suffer from depression, they’ll appear lazier and more lethargic. Moreover, they’ll lose interest in various activities along with appetite loss that will cause them to turn down water or treats. Upon weighing your dog frequently, you’ll notice a significant loss in weight. Excessive shedding of fur is also a symptom of depression in dogs.


Maintaining a steady routine for your pet is the most ideal way of preventing depression. If your dog is suffering from depression due to losing a companion, ensure you shower them with affection and love.

You can do so by taking them out on frequent trips to the local parks, walks, and other activities they enjoy. Furthermore, helping them socialize with other dogs can aid in beating depression.

3. Social Anxiety

As is the case with human beings, dogs can develop social anxiety as a result of minimal socialization as they grow up. Social anxiety is a particularly common phenomenon in stray dogs, puppy mills, or those that suffered abuse from their owners.

As a result, these dogs become anxious in the presence of unfamiliar dogs alongside human beings, ushering in aggressive behavior.


One of the most prevalent signs in dogs with social anxiety is aggression. When these canines are placed in the company of other dogs and human beings, they’ll snap and growl as they consider then threats. The aggression may be coupled with constant panting, drooling, and shivering.


An ideal way of treating social anxiety is ensuring your pup socializes from a tender age by regularly introducing them to new dogs and people, allowing them to develop the necessary social skills. You can also use positive reinforcement methods to teach them to be friendlier and calmer towards other dogs and people.

Closing Remarks

Knowing some of the mental disorders that dogs suffer from can help you identify unusual behaviors sooner rather than later. Nonetheless, before diagnosing your furry friend as being mentally disabled, have a vet thoroughly examine them to rule out other diseases or conditions.

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Michael Brady

Michael is an animal-lover who specializes in marketing. He started running Dog Food Care with his mother, Sarah, after leaving his office job. Michael gained enough flexibility in his schedule to be able to adopt a dog of his own and welcomed Emmie the dachshund into his home in 2020.