Would you be shocked if I told you there’s no such thing as dog depression?
It is a shocking statement and, frankly, I don’t believe it. When I conducted my research, however, it was hard to find a reliable study to report the reality of depression in dogs. When you consider all the literature available to help dog owners deal with canine issues such as fears, phobias and separation anxiety, isn’t it fair to say that dog depression is real?
Keep reading, because you’re going to learn about things that could cause depression in dogs and how to deal with it.
In addition, there are affiliate links on this page. All that means is that if you click on a link (advertisement), I get a little money from that. It doesn’t cost you a cent though!
Is Your Dog Showing the Following Signs?
- no interest in play
- sleeps more
- no interest in daily walks or other normal daily routines
- has stopped eating
- is found sleeping around the house in places where the dog never went before
- shows more aggression
- lacks energy
- depressed dogs will often lick at their paws or legs obsessively
Is it Depression or Disease?
I have two dogs and I wish they could tell me what’s wrong. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to tell.
If you’re seeing some or all of the behaviors above, don’t hesitate to bring your dog to the veterinarian. What looks like depression can actually be a symptom of an underlying disease.
At Home Ways to 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.
We all think we’re spending plenty of time with our dogs, but is it quality time? Sometimes my lab only needs 10 minutes of my undivided attention to get out of the doldrums. For me, that means getting right down on the floor with her. She’s happy is I just rub her belly! You’ll be surprised at how little they actually need.
Re-route Your Routine
I am totally guilty of this…not exercising my dogs enough. I used to take my dogs for walks every day, and then the habit slowly disappeared. When dogs walk, they are getting physical exercise, but they’re also tiring out their brains by sniffing and smelling, marking territory and being on guard to everything going on around them.
The walk itself is stimulating to them, and that alone can pull him/her out of depression. It also tires your dog and settles any nervous energy. Dog walking leads to a nicely balanced dog.
Watch the Diet
This could fall under the category below, but I’m going to mention it anyway. 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, and now they have pretty poops.
Not going to lie, this is an affiliate link:
Hey, it’s a lot easier to pick up a nicely formed poop that doesn’t smell too bad compared to what it used to be like!
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
If a plain old walk isn’t doing the trick, consider taking the dog to a dog park or a doggie daycare where he can play and socialize with other dogs.
Is your dog home alone a lot? Most of us have to work for a living and there’s no sense feeling guilty about that. As long as your dog is left in a safe, comfortable environment with food and water, he’s fine. Never leave your dog chained in the backyard for hours at a time. But duh, you knew that.
Maybe your dog needs to be with other dogs. Some breeds are naturally more people-oriented than others and some thrive in the company of other canine companions. If a doggy day care is an option, try signing your pooch up for that.
Research a reputable company. They will show you around, have good referrals and reviews, and will treat your dog as unique as the others. Doggy day cares will alert you if they recognize any unusual behavior and will be safe.
In Canada, try: GOFETCH
In the USA, try: ROVER
In the UK, try: DOGBUDDY
DISEASE CAN MASK ITSELF AS DEPRESSION
Before you assume your dog is depressed, a number of other possibilities have to be ruled out first. Make an appointment with the veterinarian to rule out things like:
- Parasite infections
- Lyme Disease
- Injured paw
I’m sure you can see why it’s important to rule out illnesses that mimic signs of depression. Dog depression is one thing, but failure to address any serious underlying disease could be dangerous.
In my attempt to find peer-reviewed articles on dog depression, I was surprised at what I found. Many scientists disclaimed the observation that dog depression exists. On the other hand, these same professionals offered evidence to suggest that dogs feel fear, happiness, and anxiety.
It seems reasonable that dogs would also be able to experience depression, given the acceptance and treatment of these other “psychiatric” conditions.
Marc Bekoff, professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology, is an animal analyst determined to educate society about the power of animal emotion. He wants us to view animals as equal to the human population.
How cool is that?
In addition to his many books on the subject, Bekoff has a blog posted at Psychology Today called Animal Emotions. Each blog post focuses on a particular animal of the wild with stories designed to showcase an animal’s ability to empathize, care, and react, characteristics we would normally associate with the human condition.
You’ll find countless articles designed to help us interpret the behaviors of animals. These interpretations lead to the question, “Do animals feel emotions?” Professor Bekoff would argue that yes, they most certainly do.
— Emily Wu Truong (@emilywspeaks) November 1, 2015
THE 1990’s were the DAWNING OF THE PROZAC ERA FOR DOGS
Anti-depressants work on the brain’s neurotransmitters that pass signals from one nerve cell to the other. Although not officially approved by the FDA, veterinarians have been prescribing antidepressants for dogs since the 90’s.
Today, many people who rescue dogs (for example) are faced with behavioral problems, depression, separation anxiety, etc. Antidepressants are helping these dogs to get past those issues while learning new, better behaviors.
It’s important to note that antidepressants cannot be stopped abruptly. You might be interested in reading this:
This video from Twitter has to make you smile.
Every dog should be as happy as this! That Smile!! ? pic.twitter.com/FNUm9RAL3K
— LauraOf TheLight (@LauraoftheLight) March 1, 2018
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 or more anxiety and bad behavior. That doesn’t mean the dog is depressed. He just needs you as a pack leader to show him that nothing has changed in his world has changed.
Mistaking health problems or unaddressed fears and bad behavior can cause a host of problems including aggressiveness towards family members, friends, or strangers.
When you’re used to seeing something for a long time, it’s easy to overlook signs and symptoms. If the decline has been a slow, gradual process, you might not have noticed it. Lack of energy, dog fur loss, not eating enough…these are all things that might initially be overlooked in our busy lives.
CONGRATULATIONS! You’re officially a caring, loving, dog owner.
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. Let the guilt go and stop blaming yourself. You’ll get it! The most important thing is providing a safe, loving home with a solid routine – including regular exercise – for your pooch.
Your dog will soon be on the mend thanks to you.
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Remember: I’m not a veterinarian so please don’t take this post as the final word on depression in dogs. Always take your dog to a licensed veterinarian for sound, medical advise.