Do dogs suffer from depression?

Can dogs suffer from Depression? In short, yes! In recent years dogs have become a part of our families, rather than just a companion. It was not that long ago that it was believed that dogs did not feel pain like us, unfathomable if you think about it now isn't it! Our understanding and knowledge of just how similar dogs and humans are is growing, along with dogs being treated just how they should be.  

We all know that dogs can suffer from anxiety, and some of us either have a dog with anxiety or know someone with a suffering dog, but depression in dogs is still seriously misunderstood. 

Dogs feel an array of emotions like us, from happiness and excitement, to, anger, anxiety, hunger, thirst, and so on. 

It can be difficult to recognise depression in dogs, but it is important to acknowledge it and help them through it. There are some key signs that you can look out for, but if you are unsure it is always best to chat to your behaviorist or veterinarian. 

SIGNS OF DEPRESSION IN DOGS 

  • Not greeting you at the door with his tail wagging, excited and showing a doggy smile from ear to ear, like normal. 
  • Eating less than normal and has an unusually reduced appetite.  
  • Moping around more than normal. Sleeping more, not coming up to you for attention like you are both used to. 
  • Not as playful as normal around other dogs or on walks. 
  • Unusual behavior such as excessive licking, hiding or changes in sleeping habits. 

 

COMMON CAUSES OF DEPRESSION IN DOGS

  • The first step is to have your dog checked by a Veterinarian. As with any list of symptoms, they can be caused by a range of problems. It is best to rule out any potential health conditions. For example, in dogs suffering from sore joints and arthritis, it is common for them to become a bit 'snappy' due to their pain. This is easily confused with aggressive and poor behavior.  
  • The loss of their best friend, whether it be another pet in your house or a family member. This is the most common cause. Pets grieve just like we do, hard to believe for some but it is true. We are all our dogs know, love and rely on. 
  • Sudden changes in the household, such as the introduction of a newborn baby or pets. 
  • Boredom and a lack of purpose can also be causes. 
  • You... believe it or not. Dogs are extremely sensitive to the energy around them. If you are depressed, he can pick up on this and unknowingly alter his own mood too. 
  • A traumatic or stressful event can be a trigger for depression. Dogs suffering from depression with this as the cause, I highly recommend seeing a Behaviorist

 

 

HOW TO TREAT A DOG WITH DEPRESSION, WHAT CAN YOU DO?

  • If you think your dog is suffering from depression, the first step is to have him seen by a veterinarian to rule out any underlying health conditions. 
  • If your dog is depressed, the best thing you can do is give them some solid TLC. Show your affection so he knows he is loved and appreciated.  
  • Reward signs of happiness by giving a treat or lots of praise when your dog shows excitement. This re-enforces that it is good to show happy and excited behavior. 
  • Get outdoors.... take him on walks. Sunshine is not just healing and energizing for us, but also for animals. Go do the things that he loves to do and soak up some Vitamin D. 
  • Feed good quality food. Think about how your emotions fluctuate when you are eating foods that are highly processed or low in nutrition. Dogs are no different, feeding a poor quality diet will lower his energy levels, reduce his want to play or exercise, and also potentially lead to weight gain. 
  • Using mind-stimulating toys. Toys that encourage him to use his mind will help to distract him from the sad feelings that he is experiencing. 
  • Exercise with a purpose... this means creating opportunities for your dog to exercise while being rewarded. This can be through providing raw bones for him to chew on, or toys that incorporate food inside them (like these treat balls). Toys that require effort to extract the goodies are ideal. 

 

Here is a great short video that explains the essentials for dogs that are suffering from depression. 

 

WHEN NOTHING SEEMS TO BE WORKING

  • If you have tried everything I have written about above and your sad pooch's personality is still not picking up, I recommend seeking the advice of a Canine Behaviourist. I can not recommend Dionna at Animal Behaviour Australia - She is truly gifted!
  • Dogs generally move through this phase reasonably fast but some can take longer. Don't expect him to be back to normal within a few days, but if you have not had any improvement for a few weeks, then further intervention may be necessary. 
  • Just remember that at the end of the day, the one thing that your dog wants more than anything is your love and affection. For a lot of dogs, this in itself is enough to turn their frown, upside down! 

 

If you have any experiences that you would like to share, or have any questions, please reach out to me. I would love to hear from you. 

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