All About Dog Depression
As owners of boisterous dogs, it becomes pretty obvious when our pets are suddenly acting a little low.
Although dogs won’t exactly experience the same clinical condition of depression as we do, dog depression is a very real thing that can affect them.
What can you do about dog depression?
There are some lifestyle changes you can make, like more physical activity, mental stimulation, and a change in diet that may improve their mood. Otherwise, reaching out to their vet for a more detailed diagnosis and plan could be required.
If you’ve noticed a mental shift in your dog and they don’t seem to get as excited about life as they used to, this guide can help you both out.
We’ll look at the signs and causes of dog depression and what you can do to bring them back to their old, lovable self.
What Are the Signs of Depression in a Dog?
As responsible pet owners, it’s up to us to pick on the clues that our dogs are giving us that something is amiss.
When it comes to dog depression, these are a few of the symptoms that your dog might be exhibiting that can signal an issue.
Loss of appetite
If your usually hungry dog has suddenly lost their appetite and no longer seems excited about food, it could be depression. This can also be a sign of a physical condition as well and deserves a visit to the vet.
Biting and chewing paws
A dog that spends a lot of times chewing or biting their paws might be doing so to self soothe or calm themselves down. If you don’t notice them doing it, you may be able to see it when checking out the pads of their feet.
Reduced energy levels
A dog that no longer wants to go for a walk or throw the ball around in the backyard could be feeling down and having a slump in energy. This is another sign that could be due to an illness as well and should be checked out.
Sometimes, dogs will exhibit sadness and depression with their interactions, and it’s usually obvious to tell if they suddenly seem withdrawn from the family.
Spending more time sleeping, resting, and not wanting to get out of their bed is a common sign of dog depression and something that occurs with many humans who experience this condition as well.
Hiding and avoiding
If your dog seems scared or like they’re hiding away from the world, this could be because they’re feeling down.
Common Causes of Dog Depression
Many causes can lead to your dog feeling down or suffering a serious bout of depression, and sometimes the root issue may not be obvious.
By pinpointing what it is that’s causing the change in mood, it may be easier to treat it.
Changes in environment
Dogs can be just as sensitive as humans when it comes to change, and if yours has experienced anything notable in their environment, it might be causing the issue.
Possible changes in the environment could be as major as moving house, the addition of a baby to the family, or even something as simple as changing around the furniture.
Loss and grief
Just like us, our dogs are acutely aware when someone is no longer with us, whether it’s a person or another animal. Our pets are capable of experiencing feelings of grief and loss, and this can be ongoing and eventually turn into a longer depressive mood.
Be there for your pet just as you would another person if they experience a loss and give them time to move on from it.
Recent illness or injury
Physical ailments and illness can be detrimental to a dog’s mental health, especially if it’s taken them a long time to recover. Whether it’s a recent surgery they had or a tick bite that caused them to become unwell, being incapacitated and not as active as they once were can change their mood for the worst.
Dogs feel fear strongly when it happens, and they get scared for many reasons, including traveling in the car, strangers in the house, or loud noises. A dog that experiences a lot of fear or takes a long time to get over it might find this feeling transforms into sadness and depression.
Understanding what triggers your dog and being able to comfort them before and during the event will be hugely beneficial for them.
As the leaders of the pack, it’s up to us to display the right behavior to our dogs and make sure we’re treating them with the respect they deserve. Even the best owners will feel sad or angry at times, and our dogs are receptive to these changes in mood and may even start to feel them with us.
Other times, an owner leaving is enough to cause separation in our dogs which can lead to feelings of depression as well.
How to Fix Your Dog’s Depression
A depressed dog is not an easy fix, as they’ve likely been feeling this way for some time and might find it hard to get out of. Before you take them to the vet, you can try a few of these things to see what works:
- Food: A change in diet could be all your dog needs to perk themselves back up as they can easily become bored eating the same thing every day. Make sure you are giving them regular access to fresh water, a bone once a week, and veterinary-recommended dry and wet food.
- A friend: If your dog has recently lost their best canine friend or they don’t get as much time with other pets, you might think about getting another dog. This doesn’t work in every household and you’ll need to carefully choose a dog that suits your existing one’s behavior and personality, but it can make a big change.
- Mental and physical stimulation: Think about mixing up their mental and physical stimulation to give them something new. Taking a new hiking path or investing in some brain training toys for your pet might help.
Once you’ve exhausted all of the options and it’s clear your dog isn’t doing any better, the next steps to take include:
- A trip to the vet: Sometimes, loss of appetite or sleeping all the time is due to physical ailments and not mental ones. A vet can help you rule out any other issues or serious conditions you might be overlooking before confirming that it is their mood bringing them down.
- Medication: A vet may be able to prescribe medication to your dog to treat various mental conditions like anxiety and depression, including Prozac, Trazodone, and Xanax. Otherwise, options like pheromone sprays and compression products have been shown to help dogs with anxiety.
Fixing a Dog With the Blues
Our canine friends are just as susceptible to feeling down as we are, so knowing the signs to look out for before it gets out of hand is a must.
With a few lifestyle changes and expert advice from your vet, it’ll be no time at all before your dog has come back to life.
Dog depression can rear its ugly head at any time in your pet’s life, and knowing what to look for so you can get them help sooner rather than later is the best approach.
If you have more questions about your dog’s mental health so you can be the best owner possible, read on for some FAQs.
How Much Mental Stimulation Does a Dog Need?
A dog should have a few sessions of 10 to 20 minutes of mental stimulation each day, along with their usual physical activity, to keep their minds active and reduce destructive behavior. Depending on the breed of dog and their energy levels, this may be more, but should never be less.
How Can I Mentally Help My Dog?
It’s important to keep a dog’s mind active by giving them new challenges to work on each day. Some ideas for mentally helping your dog are using snuffle mats, teaching them a new trick, taking them out to run errands, and changing their walking route every now and then to keep things new.
Why Is My Dog Sad?
Dogs can feel sad like humans, and this change in their behavior is usually due to some sort of external influencer. Recent changes in home situations, the loss of another pet or family member, or feeling as if they are not physically or mentally stimulated enough can cause them to act sad.