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Dog Depression – The Tell “Tail” Signs


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.

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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. 

Dogs Suffer in Silence

 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.


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. 


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. 


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.


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. All of that works makes a  body tired. 

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. 

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.

Dial Up Your Dog!

I have a yellow lab and she always gives me those sad-looking droopy eyes as if there were something else I could give her to cheer her up.   My experience with her has led me to the following at-home tricks:

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!

I am guilty of not walking my dogs everyday.  I have every excuse in the book, but the reality is that dog’s must get exercise.

You should walk your dog to tire his mind and body.  It’s physical exercise which 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 one who has all of these needs fulfilled on a regular basis.

Watch the Diet

Take a look at what you’re feeding your dog. I’ve noticed that when I changed my dog food from regular Kibble to Royal Canin, both dogs perked up. They’re both senior dogs, yet I’ve seen a spike in their energy levels. There is no sign of depressed behavior at all.

 Give that Dog a Bone!

Dog’s are creatures of the wild, no matter how domesticated we’ve made them. Chewing on a thick, meaty bone offers that primal response that they love. Be safe and don’t leave your dog alone while eating a bone. I know this seems like an over-simplified solution, but it’s really meant to be combined with the other suggestions on this post.

Put Pooch to Work

Dog’s don’t have hobbies, but they sure love to be needed.  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. 

I know people who pay $20 a day and when they pick up their pooch at 5 pm, she is pooped! They get pictures and videos of all the things she does during the day.  

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

Start Your Doggy Day Care Research With These:

In Canada, try:  GOFETCH

In the USA, try:  ROVER

In the UK, try: DOGBUDDY

Contradicting Studies on Canine Depression

Many scientists don’t believe that dog depression exists. On the other hand, they do believe that dogs can feel fear, happiness, and anxiety. If that’s true, why can’t they also feel sadness?

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.

Prozac for Dog Depression

Veterinarians have been prescribing antidepressants for dogs since the 90’s. Not all of these dogs suffer from depression, however. 

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. 

It’s important to note that antidepressants cannot be stopped abruptly.

Is Your Dog Mirroring Your own Behavior?

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.

What things have you done, or hope to do, to relieve symptoms of anxiety, aggression, or depression in your dog?  Tell me about it by emailing me:  [email protected] OR leave a comment in the form below.

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