I have previously written about stress, depression and dog cancer here and here. In those articles, I made the point that depression and stress in dogs are real phenomena and that stress and depression must be addressed if your dog has cancer. So, how do you fight dog cancer and depression?
How to Fight Dog Cancer and Depression
One effective way is by building a healthy self-esteem. This is a sure-fire way to combat depression. When we feel down, accomplishing something concrete can often lift our spirits. It offers new evidence to our brains that we are good for something.
So, how do you do it in dogs? It is actually really easy. Just have them do something that is a tiny bit challenging — for them — and then praise them like crazy.
Not all dogs are good at tricks, but most dogs can do something. It can be as simple as sitting, or coming when commanded. Some dogs are clever or athletic, and can shake, stay, roll, play dead, speak, heel, fetch, commando-crawl, jump, and more. Even a dog who is incapacitated physically can be prompted to “speak”, roll to show the belly, or look up when spoken to.
If your dog has cancer, take the time to build his self-esteem as often as possible.
Every time you interact with your dog, encourage him or her to accomplish a task. Try to do it before giving free praise. Just like in humans, a feeling of accomplishment is key in building self-esteem and combatting depression.
And the thing that feels really good to your dog is the big, huge love shower you give them after they did something they can be proud of. The love shower is so much more meaningful when they accomplish something. It’s even more meaningful than food treats!
For more helpful tools and information, get a copy of the Dog Cancer Survival Guide
Praise, Praise, Praise … For Something Concrete
Many times we will just give praise to our dogs when we want them to feel good, or when they come up to use for affection, or we missed them, or whenever. In actuality, this does not accomplish much except to make us, the dog lovers, feel good. The just-because-you’re-here praise we give our dogs does nothing to build self-confidence.
It is like those kids who have always gotten whatever they wanted, just for being kids. They turn out lacking self esteem and can be moody, irritable, and later in life, depression-prone and even narcissistic.
Let Cancer Motivate Your Self-Esteem Building
By continually asking your dog to take on manageable challenges throughout the day — and then heaping praise on them — you are combating stress and depression in your dog.
And that’s important. Remember, depression stimulates the excessive release of chemicals in the body like epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol. The net effect of these signals is to literally stimulate cancer cell growth directly. These hormones also suppress the activity of cancer-fighting white blood cells in dogs’ bodies like Natural Killer cells and cytotoxic T cells.
So cutting back on stress hormones is critical — even if you think your dog might not “be depressed.”
So, get started today! Fight cancer with self-esteem!
Best to all,
Further Reading and References
Peter F. Cook, Ashley Prichard, Mark Spivak, Gregory S. Berns, Awake canine fMRI predicts dogs’ preference for praise vs food, Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, Volume 11, Issue 12, December 2016, Pages 1853–1862, https://doi.org/10.1093/scan/nsw102
Dr. Demian Dressler is internationally recognized as “the dog cancer vet” because of his innovations in the field of dog cancer management, and the popularity of his blog here at Dog Cancer Blog. The owner of South Shore Veterinary Care, a full-service veterinary hospital in Maui, Hawaii, Dr. Dressler studied Animal Physiology and received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of California at Davis before earning his Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from Cornell University. After practicing at Killewald Animal Hospital in Amherst, New York, he returned to his home state, Hawaii, to practice at the East Honolulu Pet Hospital before heading home to Maui to open his own hospital. Dr. Dressler consults both dog lovers and veterinary professionals, and is sought after as a speaker on topics ranging from the links between lifestyle choices and disease, nutrition and cancer, and animal ethics. His television appearances include “Ask the Vet” segments on local news programs. He is the author of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide: Full Spectrum Treatments to Optimize Your Dog’s Life Quality and Longevity. He is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Hawaii Veterinary Medical Association, the American Association of Avian Veterinarians, the National Animal Supplement Council and CORE (Comparative Orthopedic Research Evaluation). He is also an advisory board member for Pacific Primate Sanctuary.