Our canine friends are sympathetic animals and sometimes they can become depressed. You may say, “How ridiculous! Imagine a dog being depressed!” You may say that and, if you did, you would be wrong, for dogs can indeed become depressed and they tell us they’re depressed in different ways.
Just as depression in their human counterparts has increased over the years, so have increased cases of canine depression. If you’ve noticed in recent days your dog’s uncharacteristic behavior such as sleeping more than usual or not eating or drinking as much or in excess or how they’ve lost interest in favorite activities such as taking walks or playing fetch, then you must consider that your dog may be facing depression.
Depression symptoms can mimic some illnesses so your first course of action is a vet visit. But you can aid your vet by gathering information and examining your dog’s physical condition. If no physical symptoms are present, your dog may have a chemical imbalance treatable with medication.
The question remaining is, “How do you know that your dog may be depressed and what are the symptoms of depression?”
Dogs sleep a lot especially when they are alone. Changes in their sleeping habits should have you concerned if you leave your dog alone for long periods and notice upon your return that your dog continues to sleep. If things that once attracted him no longer do, like how he reacts to your presence or carries on when someone is at the door, then it’s time to sit up and take notice.
Paw licking is another sign. Our dog, Angel, was an avid paw licker, so much so in fact that we took him to the vet only to discover he had a food allergy. Excessive licking can also be a psychological issue as depressed dogs will often lick or chew their paws as a manner in which to soothe themselves.
Losing All Interests
Another sign of depression is if your dog suddenly loses interest in all the activities he once loved. If playing or going for walks seem to be marked off his agenda, then take note. Less action plus a slow down may equal depression.
When our dog became ill, the first thing I noticed was that his appetite was gone! Appetite loss also occurs with depression. While some dogs eat in the extreme others will eat less, even refusing their favorite treats!
Hiding in a closet or under the bed are signs that can be pointing directly at depression. This symptom usually means one of two things: depression or illness.
Other Triggers of Depression
Environmental changes can also trigger depression and anxiety in pets. When living conditions are in flux so are your dog’s mood. The death of another household pet or human can be a big trigger for depression and grief. Something as simple as a family member moving away or changing their schedule as for when a child returns to school after a summer at home can set off anxiety and loneliness which is a big trigger for depression.
We all hate bad weather and your dog is no exception. Changes in the climate and seasons do have an impact upon the moods of pets especially if the bad weather extends for an extended period. Hurricanes, because of atmospheric pressure changes, can impact a dog but so can a long, cold winter.
What do you suppose could be the number one cause of canine depression? If you’d answer the loss of a companion, you’d be correct! The emotional ties between dogs and friends (not even necessarily other dogs but other animals and humans) are active. The sudden disappearance of a regularly seen animal or a loved one who cares for them is stressful for a dog who will need grieving time.
Dealing With the Doldrums
Activity! Arrange some play time with your canine friend in the beautiful warm sun. Think about your dog’s long history. Initially, they were wild animals free to roam and frolic in nature. Lack of activity outdoors may have caused the depression so try reversing that and get some sun. If long walks and playing outside seem to help, continue the sunshine treatment and increase the outdoor activity throughout the day.
Head for a trip to the dog park or a walk around the neighborhood and introduce your dog to other dogs. Another companion or two or three can be the boost your dog needs to boost its mood. Meeting other canines is also an excellent way to help your pet out of depression if you had an older dog in the house that you had recently lost.
Patience & Love
Always remember, time heals all wounds. It may take a while but eventually in a day or month down the road, your dog will be able to pull itself out of depression. Most dogs will be able to make this transition with a bit of love and understanding, but it’s not going to occur overnight.
By Tom Matteo
About the Author
Tom Matteo has been a freelance writer since 1992. He has written hardware and software reviews for computers and gaming systems, and now writes about animal behavior and care. Tom resides in Bethlehem, PA with his wife, Tina, and their beloved cockapoo, Angel.