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Depression in Dogs – 5 Things You Can Do to Help

Are you noticing signs of depression in your dog? As pet owners, we may not realize that dogs can suffer from the same type of depression that we as people do. Any sudden change in mood, appetite, or sleep patterns should always be brought to the attention of a veterinarian.

Major life changes can bring about signs of depression in dogs. However, medical conditions can also play a role.

Do you know if there is something wrong with your dog? Keep reading to find out if it’s depression and what you can do to help make your dog feel better.

Before you go, be sure to read the follow-up posts related to antidepressants, serotonin syndrome, Prozac weaning, and more! (see bottom of post)

Symptoms of Depression in Dogs

Dog owners have a 6th sense about their dogs. If something isn’t quite right, you can feel it.  You might not be able to put your finger on it, but something about your dog isn’t right.

The first thing you need to do is bring your dog to the veterinarian for a check-up. Dogs only have a few ways of communicating. Sometimes, if they are not feeling well, it may translate into signs of depression.

Symptoms could include:

  • Lethargy
  • Lack of appetite
  • sudden change in behavior
  • Uninterested in favorite toys or play
  • Uninterested in usual walks or time at the park
Depression in dogs can be caused by many things.
Sad old dog.

Common Causes of Depression in Dogs

 If your dog is suddenly sleeping more and not eating, he or she may a bacterial infection or a virus.  However, you won’t be able to identify an underlying condition without the help of a veterinarian. 

Obviously a dog cannot tell you he isn’t feeling well. It’s your job to pick up on those subtle clues.  The following are some examples of underlying conditions that could cause canine depression.

The following are common causes of depression in dogs.

Infection

Infections are not always evident on first glance. Infections can occur in the mouth or in the ears, for example. If your dog isn’t eating well, pawing at his/her face, and refusing favorite treats, check your dog’s temperature.

A healthy dog should have a temperature of 100 to 102.5. Anything higher and you might be looking at an infection.

Find out how to properly take a dog’s temperature here: How to Take Your Dog’s Temperature

Change of Routine

Dogs are creatures of habit. If your normal routine is to get up early, go to work, come home, walk the dog, feed the dog, bath the dog, etc., then your dog may feel totally out of sorts when that routine is changed.

A solid routine reinforces a dog’s sense of security. It’s important to try and maintain that as much as possible.

Low Blood Sugar

Diabetes and/or hypoglycemia can easily go undetected in the early stages. Low blood sugar can significantly affect a dog’s energy level. The result is what looks like depression.

If your dog hasn’t experienced any recent traumatic event (for example, the loss of a companion) it might be worth considering that your dog has an underlying medical condition.

Be sure to schedule a veterinarian appointment to ensure a clean bill of health.

New House

If you have recently moved and things are in a bit of chaos, your dog might be feeling it. That sudden loss of the familiar can leave dogs feeling very anxious and sad.

Company/Visitors

Many dogs love to have company over. It’s usually another opportunity for treats and attention. However, if you have overnight guests, that usually means a part of the normal routine is temporarily disturbed.

The good news is that once things get back to normal, your dog should be his happy self again.

Joint Pain

Dogs will hide their pain if they can. Torn CCL’s, arthritis, tooth abscesses and even sore, swollen paws can cause a dog to retreat to his bed.

Dog depression isn’t typically a disease of the mind. If your dog appears down in the dumps lately, look him/her over for signs of pain.

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism, a disease common to people, is also a condition that affects middle aged and senior dogs.  The main symptoms of hypothyroidism are fatigue and weight gain. 

Hypothyroidism slows everything down. For that reason, your dog may appear more tired than normal.

New Pet

Dogs get used to our undivided attention. They are also fairly territorial. If your dog isn’t used to having to share your love and affection with another animal, it could trigger signs of depression.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal affective disorder affects humans because of the limited sunlight during the winter months. In animals, it could be due to a lack of exercise.

Let’s face it, we may not get out as often when the weather is dark and cold. Making the effort to get your dog out more often during the harsh winter months could make a difference.

9 Ways to Help Your Dog Out of Depression

You’d be surprised how easy it can be to pull your dog out of a sad state. How you deal with the situation will depend on a few things.

If the symptoms of depression are related to a major life change, we have some creative ideas to help you.

If the symptoms of depression are related to medical conditions, your first course of action will be to visit a veterinarian. The sooner any pain and discomfort can be alleviated, the faster your dog will feel happy again.

#1. Go on Regular Walks

Dog walking is good for weight control, but exposing your dog to new smells and new territory is also an exercise for the brain.  A balanced dog is a happy dog.

#2. Watch the Diet

Take a look at what you’re feeding your dog. These days, there are dog foods produced for every breed, offering unique blends of nutrients that cater to specific breeds.

Puppies and senior dogs have unique requirements that should be addressed. Good quality food can result in a much happier, energetic dog.

#3. Put Pooch to Work

Dog’s don’t have hobbies, but they sure love to have a job.  Maybe your dog would make a great companion animal. 

Check for non-profits organizations near you that train dogs to be guides.

#4. Spend Quality Time With Your Dog

We’re all busy people, but at the end of the day we want our dogs to be happy and well-balanced. Part of that responsibility is spending quality time with our pets.

Quality time doesn’t have to mean a long time. The important thing is that our attention is focused solely on the dog. Watch his/her eyes light up when you get ln the floor to play with them!

#5. Eliminate Separation Anxiety

Instead of leaving your dog home alone while you go to work, you might want to consider a doggy daycare. 

Look for a reputable company by asking around. Research the facilities in your area. Make sure they have your phone number along with your dog’s veterinarian number.

The best doggy daycares make you part of the experience by sending pictures and/or videos of your dog’s fun day.

Antidepressants for Dog Depression

Antidepressants like Prozac are helping dogs stabilize their fears and anxieties. Over time, the dog (with the help of his owner or behaviourist) is able to learn more appropriate reactions. 

Veterinarians have been prescribing Prozac for many years. Prozac (Fluoxetine) is the only FDA approved antidepressant for treating separation anxiety in dogs.

Antidepressants can be the perfect treatment plan for your dog when all else fails. It certainly doesn’t have to be a last resort.

It’s very important to ensure there are no underlying medical conditions that are causing the depression. In addition, as you’ve read in this post, there are many simple ways that could help elevate your dog’s happiness.

FOR MORE INFORMATION READ: Prozac for Dogs 5 No Fail Steps to Weaning

The Wrap Up

Oftentimes, a little more mental stimulation, maintaining a dog’s daily routine, and spending quality time with your dog will go a long way in raising his/her spirits.

Physical illness, pain, and recent changes to lifestyle can all cause depression in dogs. Antidepressants have proved to be useful in helping dogs with anxiety, but it’s important to rule out physical causes before a prescription is written.

We only have our dogs for a short time. A little extra love and attention can really go a long way. Sometimes, it’s the simple things in a dog’s life that bring a sparkle back into his eyes.

5 No-Fail Steps to Weaning Prozac for Dogs

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