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How to Know if Your Dog is Depressed

I’m a crier. I cry at good things and bad things. I’ve even been known to cry occasionally watching Star Trek. Human emotions are kind of crazy, and if you are a dog parent you know that dogs have emotions too.

There has been a greater focus today on the role of mental health and depression in the average person.

However, it may surprise you that depression can occur with our pets as well as ourselves. In fact, canine depression is rapidly increasing, but many owners are unsure of how to spot it. This fact can be troubling to pet owners who may not understand how depression in their dogs affects their lives. Ensuring that you know how to look out for your pet can create a better life for both you and your pooch.

How Depression Affects Dogs

It can be challenging for owners to understand depression in dogs since they don’t possess the same extensive communication skills. However, a vet will tell you that depression in dogs is similar to the symptoms in humans. A dog who is depressed will become withdrawn and inactive, coupled with changes in eating and sleeping habits. They may stop participating in activities that they once enjoyed. Depression is also closely linked with anxiety.

Sometimes depression also shows up in older dogs as part of dog dementia.

While your dog may seem oblivious to stresses of the human world, a lot of what causes us to be anxious can affect them too. Experts say that major sources are separation, aging, travel, and fear, with fear being the most common. 

Similar to humans, fear of the unknown can cause pets to become anxious. If there are unfamiliar people or animals around, it might cause your pet undue stress. Loud noises are also a main cause of anxiety for pets.

Many pets don’t do well in unfamiliar environments. That’s one reason pets tend to get anxious when travelling. Some dogs also don’t do well when it comes to flying or driving in cars. Keeping your pooch occupied is a great way to distract them and channel their anxiety. Of course, keep in mind that these symptoms can also be indicative of a medical problem.

If you suspect your dog is depressed, make sure to bring your dog into your vet for a checkup. Your dog may also be experiencing pain or other common problems. Rule out any other potential health problems to be on the safe side.      

How To Recognize Dog Depression

sad boston terrier looking out of window

These are a few potential areas of concern to be on the lookout for. 

  • Changes in Sleeping Habits    

Dogs are made to sleep much more than humans. However, dogs are often most awake and alert when their owners are home. If you notice that your dog continues to sleep even when you’re around, this may be a sign of depression.     

  • Paw Licking     

If you notice that your dog appears to be licking or chewing much more than normal, know that this can be a sign of a psychological issue. A dog that is depressed may lick or chew their paws as a self-soothing mechanism. It also could be a sign of anxiety, which depression is closely linked to.  

  • Loss of Interest     

Although not all dogs are enthusiastic, take note if your dog suddenly loses interest in previously enjoyed activities. If going on walks, playing ball, and other things that would normally excite your pet just don’t seem to do it anymore, it may be depressed.    

  • Changes in Diet     

A dog who loses weight and eats less could be experiencing one of a multitude of issues, one of which could be depression. However, just like humans, some dogs will eat more as a comforting mechanism. Watch for any unexplained weight changes in your pet as a potential sign. 

What Causes Dog Depression

Although the solution to depression can be challenging to find, it is always helpful to understand the root cause of depression. These are some potential triggers for our pets:  

  • Environmental changes: a sudden move, a change in environment, or the loss of a human or pet can all affect them   
  • Loss of Companion: this is a primary concern as the death of another pet in the home is a cause of depression. Dogs bond with each other and will take the loss very hard. 
  • Isolation: A dog that’s suddenly left alone all day may experience depression. If you have a dog that may be isolated in a crate or other container, the lack of freedom could result in depressive symptoms. There are numerous alternatives that can replace a crate. 

How To Cheer Up My Depressed Dog

dog with head laying over arm of couch

If you know that your dog is depressed, then you can take steps to resolve it. Most dogs will be able to have some recovery with these potential solutions. 

One option is to consider medication just like you would prescribe for a human. Your vet can recommend an antidepressant although always use caution with these remedies. 

Some pet owners turn to more natural options, like CBD oil for dogs. A few drops of the oil or an infused treat can correct the imbalance your dog’s chemical system that is causing the depression.  which may be a more natural alternative to medication. 

Of course, you should also try some lifestyle changes to improve your dog’s depression. Sometimes something as simple as spending quality time with your pet and showing affection is enough to boost their mood.

Final Thoughts on Depression in Dogs

Being aware of your pet’s behavioral patterns is an unavoidable part of being a good owner. If you are aware of your pet’s typical behaviors, you’ll easily be able to spot when something has changed.

Although humans present symptoms of depression differently than dogs, the treatment still needs to be taken seriously. You are in charge of your animal’s well-being and it is not something to be taken lightly or ignored. Make sure your animal enjoys life as much as you do! 

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