BY NIKKI JAMIESON insight magazine

sure you’re in a good headspace,as well.The same holds true for our four-legged compan- ions — only it’s up to you to make sure your pet’s health and mental health needs are met. “We take these innocent creatures into our


lives and we are their caregivers. It’s our respon- sibility to ensure all their needs are met, includ- ing their mental health — which is something often overlooked,”said Dr.Kate Lupton,a veteri- narian at Family Pet Hospital in Lethbridge.“In order to thrive and be truly happy pets, they need this aspect of their existence cared for. This, in turn, helps them to be the healthiest, best friends we could hope for and also helps to develop a wonderful bond.” Lupton, who specializes in treating cats, says multiple health concerns can arise from poor mental health in cats, such as inappropriate uri- nation and urinary inflammation. Although only one per cent of healthy cats get urinary tract infections, it’s often blamed for inappropriate urination,and Lupton says what is actually hap- pening is the cat is stressed and the response is often to develop inflammation within their bladder.This appears to be symptoms of a UTI — but, Lupton works to educate clients with the notion this is a mental health-related prob- lem and not something that can be fixed with antibiotics. “Of course it’s not 100 per cent black and

white, as diet also plays a factor here. Stress in cats can also manifest as over-grooming, nerv- ous or aggressive behaviour, increased sleeping and hiding, or poor grooming habits and an

20 - insight magazine march 2021

ental health is something everyone needs to take seri- ously. Even if you are in peak physi- cal health, you need to make

unhealthy coat. Even unexplained weight loss can stem from poor mental health.” “When a dog's mental health needs are not

met,we often see this manifest in unwanted behaviours,”said Amelia Eggebrecht,an RVT student at Family Pet Hospital.“Stress and anxi- ety can lead to destructive behaviour, inappro- priate urination or defecation,and vocalizing. In some cases, poor mental health care for your pet may lead to different types of aggression or anxiety disorders.Poor mental health may also be a cause for physiological disturbances, such as vomiting or diarrhea.” Both physical and mental stimulation is need-

ed for pets to stay healthy. Lupton notes cats are creatures that would spend the majority of their day in the wild hunting — with cats who hunt to live having a successful hunt only about 32 per cent of the time — leading them to do a

lot of activity. Substitute that for a bowl of kib- ble and leaving them to lounge around the house all day leads to minimal mental or physi- cal stimulation, especially when we prevent them from jumping onto counters or high up. Finding creative ways to feed your cat like puz- zle feeders, and, after determining whether your cat is a ‘mouser’ or ‘birder’, playing with them will help improve their mental health, although Lupton says to make sure you allow them to “finish the hunt”so they feel fulfilled, and to rotate their toys,so they don’t get bored. Routine is also very important for cats;when lockdowns started and people’s routine’s changed, the clinics began seeing a spike in mental health illnesses, and clinics also see simi- lar things during holidays or when kids go back to school, any time when a routine is suddenly changed.

“Changing things about a cat’s environment can also increase stress. I have some patients whose mental health suffers even if their own- ers re-arrange their living room.We share our homes with our pets — they are part of the family, so we should consider their mental health as important as we would any other member of the family,”said Lupton. “Routine is also very important in dogs. Ever

notice how your dog always seems to know if it is five minutes past dinner time? They thrive on consistency, so it is important to keep things as close to normal for them as you can,” said Eggebrecht.“Remember, they truly come from pack animals.They enjoy being with you and they need attention and companionship to do well. Creating a trusting,positive and consistent home for them to live in is one of the best things you can do to help nourish their mental health.”

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