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Mental health

Mental health and welbeing in animals

From a press release, August 23, 2005

Los Angeles — Mental health care isn’t just for humans anymore. Mental Health and Well-being in Animals, published this month by Blackwell Publishing, is the first textbook to be written on mental health in animals.

Recent research has now clearly shown that psychological and emotional issues once believed important only for people-happiness, stress management, the mind-body connection, emotional suffering, mental illness, emotional abuse, and mental cruelty — are experienced by animals. With writings by the world’s leading authorities in the fields of animal emotion research, animal behavior, cognitive science, neuroscience, and veterinary medicine, this landmark textbook ushers in a new era of animal care and establishes mental health as a bona fide field of animal health care.

Franklin D. McMillan, D.V.M., on the adjunct faculty of the Western University of Health Sciences College of Veterinary Medicine and the editor-author of the text, noted that, “Until very recently, mental health issues in animals were important only when they caused pets to do things that their owners would disapprove of-so-called ‘misbehavior’ — that would then be dealt with by training techniques to ‘correct’ the behavior. And mental health concerns for farm animals, laboratory and research animals, and captive birds weren’t even heard of.” He added, “We now know we can make the lives and emotional well-being of animals much better than we could in the past, and directing our efforts at what goes on in their heads is the key to maximizing their quality of life.”

Throughout the history of medicine and psychology the scientific community as a whole had given no meaningful credence to the concern of mental health in animals, often simply dismissing it as naive anthropomorphism. Jaak Panksepp, a neuroscientist at Bowling Green State University and the discoverer of laughter in rats, said, “The scientific evidence supporting animal emotions is now overwhelming. After all, every drug used to treat emotional and psychiatric disorders in humans was first developed and found effective in animals. This kind of research would obviously have no value if animals were incapable of experiencing these emotional states.”

McMillan stresses that the establishment of a field of mental health in animals does not only mean that pets and other animals will receive care for emotional distress and mental illnesses, but also that “we now have the knowledge and tools to help animals enjoy lives that are fulfilled rather than just physically healthy.”

Dr. Franklin D. McMillan is associated with Western University of Health Sciences College of Veterinary Medicine in Southern California and the author of Unlocking the Animal Mind: How Your Pet’s Feelings Hold the Key to His Health and Happiness.

The website for the book is http://store.blackwell-professional.com/0813804892.html