Is my dog depressed?

dog lying down on the couch depressed

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Is my dog depressed?

Similar to humans with depression, depressed dogs may exhibit a few telltale signs that they need some help. It’s important to know that some of these signs may be indicative of a medical issue, and so it’s important to have your pup checked out by a veterinarian to be sure it isn’t one of those.

  • Changes in sleep habit
  • Changes in appetite
  • Loss of interest
  • Destructive behavior

Complete Answer

There is an age-old debate discussing whether dogs experience feelings and emotions in the same way that people do. While there is no surefire way to tell, we can make educated guesses based on their behaviors in response to different things. One of those is depression. We’ve probably all had a ‘mopey’ dog at one time or another that laid around, not eating, not getting excited following a big change in their lives. During those times it’s not uncommon to wonder if your dog is depressed or if that’s even a thing. The answer is depression absolutely can occur in dogs and it’s up to us to recognize it and help get them back on the upbeat track.

 

What is Depression in Dogs?

In humans, depression is defined as “feelings of severe despondency and dejection.” Without the ability of speech, it’s hard for us to determine if that’s exactly what a depressed dog is feeling, but we do know that their behaviors are very similar to those of a depressed human. On the plus side, animal behaviorists agree that depression in dogs is very rarely a long-term issue.

Depression in dogs can occur following a lifechanging event. The death of an owner or furry companion is a major one as they also sense that loss and possibly some confusion as to where their friend went. Moving may also cause some depression since dogs thrive on a schedule and consistency and a move can really throw them for a short-term loop. Additions to the family, a new baby or critter, can also put a damper on your dog’s mood. They may no longer be the main event at your home and that can take some time to adjust to.

 

What Are the Signs of Depression in Dogs?

Similar to humans with depression, depressed dogs may exhibit a few telltale signs that they need some help. It’s important to know that some of these signs may be indicative of a medical issue, and so it’s important to have your pup checked out by a veterinarian to be sure it isn’t one of those.

  • Change in sleep habits: Depressed dogs may sleep more or less than they normally did. A dog that sleeps all day while you’re at work is nothing out of the ordinary. But one that sleeps while you’re away and continues their peaceful slumber even after you get home should signal to you that something is wrong.

On the flip side, a dog that normally sleeps well through the night but is suddenly up at all hours could be depressed. Dogs may pace or wander the house or even whine if they’re feeling down.

  • Changes in appetite: Most dogs live for dinnertime, but a depressed dog may start leaving part or all of their meal in their bowls. They may still accept treats or may even turn up their nose that those. Other dogs may turn to food for comfort and try to devour everything in sight.

Weight loss or weight gain may be signs of depression if a dog is feeling down for a couple of weeks or more.

  • Loss of interest: If your dog was once a candidate for most exuberant greeter but now prefers to lie on their bed when you get home, depression might be the cause. Depressed dogs may lose interest in their favorite activities or even in their everyday world. Dogs that once looked forward to their afternoon walk with their leash in their mouth waiting at the door, may choose instead to hide behind the couch. Or your once lively game of fetch turns to your dog watching as the ball rolls away with no plans of going after it.
  • Destructive behavior: Depression in dogs can even bring on destruction. They may excessively lick or chew on their paws or tail or even on other critters in your household, sometimes causing enough damage to create sores or wounds. Dogs with depression may instead start destroying your furniture, their beds, toys, or your carpets. This destruction may be worse while you’re gone.

How to Help Dogs with Depression

First thing’s first, if you think your dog is suffering from depression, see your veterinarian. Again, ruling out medical causes for the behaviors that you’re seeing is of upmost importance. If depression is the diagnosis, your vet may suggest exercise or play as ways to bring your dog back up. Doing things that your dog loves, whether that’s frequent car rides or trips to the dog park, may be all it takes to bring them out of their funk.

For dogs with more severe depression, medication may be in order. Your veterinarian will determine if medication is right for your dog and help to formulate a treatment plan with you.

 

Final Thoughts

Dogs are often thought of as our happy, exuberant, nothing affects them best friends. But the truth is they can experience depression just like you or me. If your dog is experiencing any of the above symptoms or simply isn’t acting like themselves, it’s time to see your veterinarian in order to get your canine companion back to their old selves.

 

 

 

Sources

John Gilpatrick, 6 reasons why your dog is depressed, PetMD, Nov 2017

CesarsWay, Warning signs of dog depression, cesarsway, Oct 2019

 

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