Dogs can experience depression just like humans. Here's how to identify if your dog is depressed, why, and ways to treat their depression.
You may be wondering if dogs get depressed.
The short answer is yes. But it’s a bit more complicated than that.
Dogs don’t experience depression the way humans do and you can’t draw similar comparisons on what causes them to be depressed.
There are many reasons why a dog may be depressed, but before we go through the causes you’ll need to identify whether your dog is depressed.
A depressed dog can exhibit depression in a variety of ways. If your dog is acting withdrawn, lethargic and is showing a loss in appetite. There’s a chance he/she is depressed.
They will often hide out in empty corners of the home and only get up to drink a tiny amount of water. Over time if you see any dramatic weight loss in your dog then this may be a sign your dog is depressed.
So what results in their depression?
There are a variety of causes to why your dog may be depressed:
One of the common reasons your dog may be depressed is an underlying health issue.
If you notice your dog is depressed but can’t understand why then check to see if your dog is feeling well. Are there any signs of physical injury on your dog? Most of the time, a physical illness isn’t apparent and your dog acting withdrawn and sad may be the first symptom before the illness progresses.
Book an appointment with your vet to rule this out. Your vet can carry out the necessary tests to understand if your dog’s physical health is sound. If it is a physical illness, then with the right treatment and rest, your dog will go back to being a happy puppy in no time.
Dogs will act depressed when they’re grieving - just like humans. If any of their companions have disappeared, whether it’s a human or a fellow cat or dog. Your dog may show signs of depression.
This applies even if there are behavioral changes such as a family member becoming too busy with life and not interacting with the dog like they used to before.
Any fear or phobia can also result in your dog experiencing depression. Sometimes your dog will internalize how they react to this fear and this can manifest as depression. Your dog may be limiting its vulnerability and exposure to the fear by retreating and acting withdrawn.
Changes in your dog’s environment can also show up as symptoms of depression. Dogs just like any animals are territorial and also not good with drastic change. This means if you move houses, or even carry out a renovation. This can cause your dog to act differently. With time, however, your dog should adapt tot he change and go back to being themselves.
It could be you
Dogs are known to mimic their owner's emotions and energy levels. This means if you’re not feeling so great, your dog will mimic this and feel similar to the way you do. The same applies if you leave your dog alone. Your dog may process separation anxiety in a withdrawn and sad way instead of acting out.
How to treat depression
Luckily, there are a few tricks to treating your dog's depression. These range from subtle life changes to help boost your dog’s mental health to more serious interventions.
The best assessment of which tools to use is based on your dog’s physical health. If your dog isn’t eating and you can see his physical health deterioration, then take your dog to the vet so more serious treatment options such as medication can be prescribed.
Exercising helps alleviate depression for humans and it’s no different for dogs. Take your pupper out for fun activities such as fetch and play games with them. Get them moving and engaged. This not only helps them feel companionship and bonding, but the exercise will release endorphins that boost their mental wellbeing.
Naturally, more companionship can help alleviate depression. This works more effectively if you believe your dog is either experiencing separation anxiety or is grieving the loss of a companion.
In either case, be sure to not overly coddle or comfort your dog. This may be misinterpreted by your dog as a rewarding action and your dog will continue to exhibit depressed behavior in the hopes it gets you to pay more attention to him or her.
If you feel your dog is too lonely and is the cause of depression, then consider getting another dog. Only do this if you feel your dog will be welcoming of any dog in his or her life.
If none of these tactics work, or you feel your dog’s health is deteriorating rapidly. Then visit a vet and see if your dog can be put on medication to help manage their depression. Medication should only be used as a last resort. It’s also good to seek help from an animal behaviorist who may also spend more day to day time with your dog and get them back to good health.
It’s normal for your dog to be withdrawn or sad from time to time. Just like it is for humans. However, if you see your dog exhibiting symptoms of depression for a long time and it’s starting to impact your dog’s physical health. Get help immediately from your vet.