Dog Depression – 9 Issues To Consider Before Seeking Treatment

Signs of dog depression include a sudden lack of interest in the things your dog normally enjoys. 

A depressed dog will show no interest in play. He or she might become more tired than usual. Excessive licking is also a sign of anxiety or depressed behaviour.  If your dog suddenly has what seems like a personality change, he/she could be suffering from canine depression.

Is it Dog Depression or a Serious Disease?

Some people don’t believe that dogs can have clinical depression. Unfortunately, not a lot of research has been conducted to make a strong case for dog depression.

However, when you’re the dog owner and you see that shift in behaviour, you know something isn’t right.

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.  It’s okay if you can’t articulate what the problem is.  Tell the veterinarian that your dog is acting differently. That’s often the first clue that something isn’t right and the veterinarian will pick up on that right away. 

Depression in dogs can be caused by many things.
Sad old dog.

Clinical Signs of Dog Depression

 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.

Following are 9 clinical reasons for dog depression.

#1. Infection and Dog Depression

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

#2. Change of Routine

Dog’s love a routine. 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.

Reasons for a sudden routine change include:

Vacation – Dog Depression Due to Homesickness

Leaving your dog with a reputable kennel is perfectly fine, but don’t be surprised if you find out he/she was a little unsettled while you were away. Best practice is to use the same boarding facility if you travel frequently so that your dog has a sense of familiarity when he returns.

Sickness – Your Dog Might Not Have Depression. He/she might not be feeling well.

Surgeries and sickness, unfortunately, are a fact of life. Whether you’re sick at home or hospitalized, the household routines are upset. If your dog normally cuddles up with you on the cough to watch evening television, he knows something is way off when that time rolls around and you’re still in bed.


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.

#3. Pain vs Dog Depression

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.

#4. 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. 

Other signs and symptoms that may result in dog depression include:

Weight Gain

Dogs with hypothyroidism tend to gain weight. Hypothyroidism slows down the dog’s metabolic system which can cause weight gain. In addition, dogs with this chronic condition tend to be tired a lot and don’t exert themselves as much as they did before.


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

Fur Changes

Changes in fur include sudden shedding that is considered more than normal. Certain breeds shed naturally throughout the year, but if your dog seems to be losing fur faster than before, it could be a sign of hypothyroidism, among other things.

Exercise Intolerance

When a dog has an exercise intolerance, it means the dog doesn’t have the same stamina he/she used to have. It’s easy to write this off as a normal part of aging, but it isn’t.

#5. Worms

Hookworms and roundworms can cause symptoms such as fatigue, weight loss and weakness.   

As a pet parent, you are all too familiar with your dog’s bowel habits. Since you’re picking it up off the street anyway, why not take a quick look.  Worms in a dog often show up in the stool. They may look round, like tiny buttons, or like little grains of rice (tapeworm).

These often also have other symptoms such as bloody stool and vomit or worms in the stool, but early symptoms may mimic depression.

A severe case of worms can lead to anemia and weakness. Heartworms are particularly dangerous. 

#6. Arthritis

Arthritis is a painful condition that feels like a thousand tiny knives sticking into your joints.  I know this personally and I can complain about it as much as I want too. Dogs, however, can’t speak up. Instead, a dog will lose interest in running for the ball, for example. It’s less painful to stay still, which might be way he/she tends to sleep a lot.

#7. Cancer

This is really the worst-case scenario and probably isn’t the cause of your dog’s depressed behavior.  When cancer is present in the body, the blood cells work very hard to attack the invader in an attempt to get rid of it.

Fatigue is one sign of cancer in humans and pets. It’s important to remember that it’s not the only symptom. If your dog is suddenly withdrawn/tired, there’s a good chance it’s something treatable and easily explained. Pain, infections, and disruption to regular routines can quickly change a dog’s behaviour.

#8. Lack of Exercise

It’s possible your dog is bored. A bored dog doesn’t exhibit much energy. He or she will seem listless or might anxiously pace the floor. If your dog suddenly begins chewing furniture or himself, see if a little more exercise will fix the problem. 

There are many ways to exercise a dog and they don’t all involve walking. Some examples of great exercise for dogs include:


If you’re lucky enough to be within traveling distance to a lake or even the ocean, bring your dog as often as you can. Dogs love to swim, especially when they’re asked to fetch a stick or a floatable ball out of the waters!

CAUTION: Watchout for blue-green algae. A quote from the Center for Earth and Environmental Science reports the cause of this deadly, toxic bloom:

The development and proliferation of algal blooms likely result from a combination of environmental factors including available nutrients, temperature, sunlight, ecosystem disturbance (stable/mixing conditions, turbidity), hydrology (river flow and water storage levels) and the water chemistry

SOURCE: Indiana University, What Causes Algal Blooms?

#9. Lack of Attention 

A dog with clinical depression will not be convinced to do something fun. No matter how excited you get about going for a swim or a ride to the park, you won’t be able to pull your dog out of his funk.

On the other hand, if your dog just needs extra attention, his eyes are going to light up the minute you engage with him.

Get Engaged with Your Dog!

 It doesn’t take a long time to get actively engaged with your dog. Spend ten minutes down at the dog’s level.  Your dog’s face will light up with excitement and he or she will “tell” you what the next move is. They’ll grave their favourite toy, bark, and run around joyfully…all because of that extra attention from you.

Walking – It’s More Important Than you Think!

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.

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.

Have a look at these top food recommendations:

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.

Hire a Behavior Consultant

Canine behavior consultants are trained to pick up on specific actions and reactions in dogs. It’s possible that a behavior consultant can help you get to the root of the problem. He/she will also teach you how to interpret your dog’s behavior

Doggy Day Care

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.

The Powerful Emotions of Animals

Marc Bekoff, professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology, is an animal analyst. His goal is to educate society about the power of animal emotion. He wants us to view animals as equal to the human population.

In addition to his many books on the subject, Bekoff has a blog posted at Psychology Today called Animal Emotions. 

His blog posts examine the animal emotions and the similarities between animals and people.

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.

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

Can Dogs Get Depressed When The Owner is Depressed?

Dogs are sensitive to our own moods and behaviors. Have you changed your routine in any way that would affect the dog? No more long walks or less time for play? Has something big happened in your life caused you to feel down or depressed?

Dogs need reassurance that their pack leaders are in charge. If there’s any sign that the pack leader relationship is slipping, a dog will look for another pack leader. Without one, the dog may exhibit signs of withdrawal, aggression or depression.

Good Work!

The fact that you took the time to research dog depression and look for ways to bring that spark back into your dog’s eyes says something about you as a person. Thanks to you, your dog will soon be on the mend!

The Wrap Up

I want to thank you for taking the time to read this post.  You now realize that depressed behavior in a dog can mean a number of things.  If the veterinarian isn’t able to find an underlying illness, it could be that your pooch just needs a little extra attention.

Please take a minute to share and make sure to sign up for the newsletter!

Scroll to Top