Have you ever noticed your beloved fur baby not quite acting like themselves? Maybe their energy has fallen or they seem to be moping around the house. You may have wondered if it was possible that they were depressed. Experts say dog depression is entirely possible.
Causes of Dog Depression
Dogs commonly provide emotional support for people. In fact, a dog may be registered as an emotional support animal in order to aid an individual who suffers from diagnosed conditions such as anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder as well as those suffering from depression. For this reason, people may not realize that the therapy dog providing them support may also go through their own emotional ups and downs.
We don’t have to tell you that the human-animal bond is an incredibly strong one. Yet, there is obviously a language barrier between dog and their human. While we may recognize that there’s a problem, we may not know how to fix it. In order for dog owners to help a potentially depressed dog, they have to recognize the causes behind their pup feeling a little blue.
Dogs grieve just like people do. Canine depression can be triggered by the loss of a human family member or the loss of another fur baby. Dogs can also pick up on their owner experiencing loss, even if the dog never knew the individual who their owner is grieving over. Experiencing any form of grief can greatly alter the dog’s typical behavior.
The vast majority of dogs, like the vast majority of their owners, need more in life than waiting by the back door and two meals a day. If your dog is showing signs of depression, they may just be bored. Spicing up your pup’s life with a daily trip to the park or a car ride may be the answer to your dog
being down in the dumps.
Major changes in your dog’s life such as moving, a new baby or pet in the house, or the separation of their owners, can really bring Fido down. We’ll get into how to solve these issues momentarily but simply put, pet owners must acknowledge that a change in their life also means a change in their dog’s life.
Lack of Purpose
Dogs need to have a purpose, just like their owners. Nowadays the most excitement that a dog will get on a daily basis is barking at the mailman. Again, adding stimulation to your dog’s day to day life can be an easy and effective way to get them feeling like themselves again.
Signs of Depression in Dogs
There are many potential reasons behind your dog’s shift in behavior aside from depression. Illness or pain are two reasons why your pup may be more lethargic than usual. It is important for dog owners to be able to differentiate between signs of illness and symptoms of depression. Knowing the differences allows pet owners take the appropriate steps in getting their pup the help they deserve.
A telling sign of depression is if your dog’s appetite changes. Again, appetite change is a non-specific symptom, meaning it is not only a sign of depression but a symptom of a plethora of conditions. Pet owners need to be aware of any and all changes that may also be occurring. For instance, vomiting and diarrhea are not typical symptoms of depression, and therefore the underlying condition your dog is experiencing will need to be diagnosed and treated differently.
Lethargic Dog | Changes in Sleeping Habits
Dogs sleep all the time, this isn’t new information for pet owners. However, dogs typically tend to snooze when their owners are out of the house. If you notice that your dog is sleeping much more than usual, particularly when you’re home after working away for long hours, it may be worth looking into.
Also, we should mention that this can work in the opposite direction. Dogs who once were sound sleepers may be anxious, restless, and have trouble sleeping.
Loss of Interest | Sad Dogs
Dog owners should take note if their dog suddenly seems to lose interest in activities that they were once over the moon about. If your dog is generally excited about going for a walk or playing frisbee and now seems to dread the experience, they may be suffering from dog depression.
Hiding or Avoiding Interaction
Dogs suffering from depression may also avoid interaction with humans or other animals by hiding. Sure, some dogs, like their owners, aren’t exactly
social butterflies. However, if your dog once loved the attention from anyone who walked through your front door and is now avoiding it, it may be a
sign that something is up.
Experts have found that excessive chewing and licking may very well be rooted in certain physiological or psychological conditions. If your pup is licking excessively they may be suffering from anxiety, including separation anxiety if the licking occurs when you leave, or dog depression. Vets believe that the licking or chewing may be soothing for the dog.
Diagnosing Depression in Dogs
As we previously mentioned, the symptoms of depression are non-specific. In other words, a different medical condition can typically explain the symptoms. For example, a dog having kidney issues will often lose their appetite and an older dog with hip issues may be lethargic and sleep more often. Neither of these dogs has depression, yet they have the symptoms of depression.
Therefore, whenever you notice a change in your dog’s usual behavior it is important to see a vet for an accurate diagnosis. The last thing you want is to attempt to treat the depression with long walks to the park when really your dog is suffering from something much more severe.
With that said, it is not uncommon for a change, no matter how big or small, to disrupt your dog’s life and cause symptoms of depression to appear.
Dog Depression Signs vs. Human Depression Signs
It’s not surprising that the depression signs in dogs resemble those found in their owners. Certainly, people do not lay around licking themselves, but we do find ways of repeating tasks or patterns to help soothe anxiety and distress.
Service dogs, therapy dogs, and dogs that are just simply dogs, all develop strong bonds with their owners. If you are feeling off for whatever reason, chances are your dog senses it and won’t feel quite like themselves either.
How to Cure Depression in Dogs
If your dog is depressed, there are ways to help. First, as we mentioned, make sure that a vet examines your pup and rules out any other conditions that may be responsible for the changes in behavior.
Once your vet gives you the go-ahead, experts say that the best thing you can do is try to maintain the lifestyle that you and your dog had before whatever traumatic event occurred. By maintaining the dog’s usual feeding times and daily activities, pet owners can help their dog return to a sense of normalcy. Experts also encourage pet owners to continue engaging their pup in activities that they once loved.
If your dog’s depression is rooted in boredom the fix can be pretty simple: exercise and stimulation. Setting aside time every day to give your pup the mental stimulation and physical activity they need is crucial.
In severe cases, your vet may prescribe antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications to help the dog through the tough time. However, antidepressants in dogs have not been studied as well as the use of antidepressants for humans. Vets tend to stere away from medications and aim to cure the depression in other ways first.
Natural Cures for Depression in Dogs
The good news is that dog depression can most often be cured naturally. With activity, stimulation, and perhaps above all, tender loving care your pup can get back on their feet ASAP. This means no scary drugs, no adverse reactions, only extra love between your and your fur baby.
Dog Depression: The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, realizing that your dog may be depressed can be… well… depressing. Dogs provide so much unconditional love and support to their owners.
Perhaps you or someone you know has an emotional support dog who aids in managing their mental health condition. Or, maybe you’ve seen just how remarkable service dogs are in aiding those who are visually impaired. Or, perhaps you know first hand how much your bumbling ball of fluff means to you, with or without a service animal title.
Dogs are incredibly special creatures. As pet owners, it’s our job to make sure they never forget it.