Can dogs get depressed? Yes, they can! And the signs are similar to those observed in humans. It is much difficult to diagnose depression in dogs because they cannot express themselves in a way that humans could clearly understand.
The good news is that the most common symptoms linked to canine depression have been identified. We have compiled a list of these signs and what can be done to help your dog ease his depression. But first, let’s talk about what usually causes dog depression.
Why do dogs get depressed?
Dogs are emotional creatures and sensitive to the energy of their owners. According to animal behaviourist Tamara Cartwright-Loebl, ‘The most likely cause of depression is the owner’s treatment of the dog.’ In such cases, the dog’s human is less likely to notice it.
‘Many dogs are simply depressed for their whole lives,’ she revealed in an interview. ‘They’re deprived of the normal amount of attention, exercise, and stimulation they need from day one.’
Also, if the owner is sick or depressed, the dog is likely to mirror that and also be depressed. She further explained that owners tend not to recognise that their dog is depressed. They may not even want their pets to be in their livelier selves because it ‘wouldn’t fit in with their lifestyle.’
It appears that a pet owner’s self-evaluation is key to resolving canine depression. However, owner behaviour is not the only possible cause of dog depression. Here are other possible causes:
- Loss of a family member or another pet Your dog grieves at the passing of a human member of his pack. The loss of a fellow animal companion, whether from death or a move to another place, can also hit him hard.
- Changes in the home Moving to a new house or renovating your existing home can affect your dog. A new housemate (partner, pet, or help) and children leaving home for college, work, or holiday can also cause depression.
- Pruritus and other skin problems One of the top veterinary dermatologists in the UK said that itchiness in pets, when left untreated, can lead to depression. ‘What we now know is that skin issues can be one of the biggest causes of depression for dogs,’ said Dr Anita Patel. About 75% of canines with skin problems experience depression.
How do I know if my dog is depressed?
The presence of one or two symptoms does not guarantee a depression diagnosis. The following signs can also be caused by physical illness, which is why it is important to rule them out first. These are the most common signs associated with dog depression:
- Lack of interest in things he used to find enjoyable Your dog may no longer find playing or walks fun. The toys that used to excite him no longer make him stand up and wag his tail.
- Changes in the appetite Some depressed dogs are likely to eat less and may become thinner. Others do the opposite—they eat more to comfort themselves and end up gaining weight.
- Immoderate licking or chewing Some depressed pets may find paw licking or chewing soothing.
- Increased potty accidents or mischief A once gentle dog may become suddenly aggressive when depressed. Also, a very sad pooch may pee in the wrong places in your home even though he’s been house-trained.
- Excessive sleeping If your dog keeps sleeping even when you are already home and will not even greet you, he is not feeling right. Depressed dogs can spend days sleeping and being sedentary.
- Hiding A sad dog usually wants to be left alone and will avoid interaction by hiding in a closet or some hidden space.
How can I help my dog?
If my dog is depressed, what should I do? You should first rule out all symptoms observed. A thorough check by the vet can help you do that. It is possible that the moping, excessive snoozing, and lack of appetite are just due to arthritis, for example.
Assess your own relationship with your furry buddy. Are you able to exercise him regularly? Are you able to spend quality time with him daily? Does your pet spend most of his time alone and with nothing to do? Do you give him opportunities to play off lead? Are you using gadgets to the point that your pet is reactive to them?
Do these to remedy dog depression
- Maintain your dog’s daily routine A depressed dog tends to feel disoriented. Help him regain his focus by following the same schedule daily. Keep the same feeding, exercise, grooming, and sleeping times. Provide the same food but add a nice treat during exercise or training time. You can keep the leftovers in the refrigerator and serve it again the next time. You must not reinforce his depression by giving all sorts of new or unhealthy treats. Resist the need to comfort your dog as much as you can. Giving too much attention all of a sudden is unnatural and could strengthen his depressive behaviour. Focus on keeping his normal routine despite the lack of appetite and energy.
- Provide a new toy or introduce fun things to do A food puzzle toy or a short game can help distract your dog from his blues. Getting him to engage in such activities is a way to positively reinforce the cooperative behaviour.
- Foster a rescue dog An owner of a depressed dog found the ultimate cure in another pooch. When Jodie Richers took in a friendly rescue dog to keep her sad pet company, her pooch became better within just a week.
- Use homoeopathic alternatives Bach flower remedies (mustard) and ignatia amara can be given to your pet to lift his spirits. You can give one or two drops daily. Star of Bethlehem essence is said to help mourning dogs. You can create a solution with 6–8 drops of the essence mixed in an ounce of clean water. Mix this in your dog’s water or food. If your dog has medical condition or is pregnant, consult your vet first.
Did these tips answer your questions about depression in dogs? Check out more pet health advice!