Dogs, just like humans, experience depression. A 2019 Sweden based study found out that dogs exhibited the same stress levels as their owners.
Unfortunately, your pooch may not be able to focalize their feelings, which is why most dog parents are unable to detect canine depression.
The good news is that there are signs that you can look out for to determine if your pup is going through a period of depression.
In this article, we look at the signs, causes, and treatment of dog depression.
Signs of Canine Depression
Depression symptoms often vary depending on the cause. Common signs of canine depression include:
- Reduced activity level
- Loss of appetite
- Change in body language when interacting with other pets and people
- Change in sleeping habits or lethargy
- Being withdrawn
- Loss of interest in things they enjoyed earlier
- Excessive chewing or paw licking
- Hiding and avoidance
- Aggressive behaviour such as whining and howling
- Clingy/ needy behaviour
In some instances, symptoms of depression may be confused with certain medical conditions. For instance, dogs with chronic pain or Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD) syndrome often have similar symptoms with depression.
To rule out an underlying medical condition as the cause of your pet’s depression, you should take your dog to the vet for a medical evaluation.
Causes of Dog Depression
More often, canine depression is caused by a significant change in a dog’s life or environment. However, canine depression may also be caused by other factors such as illness or lack of physical stimulation.
Here is a detailed list of possible causes of canine depression.
A dog who has lost a pet friend or owner will feel depressed.
Additionally, if you’re used to spending time with your pet and suddenly start leaving them alone for extended periods, they will often exhibit depression symptoms.
Most dogs will also grieve with their owners and family members when they’re going through a period of sadness. According to a recent study done at the Universities of Sao Paulo, Brazil and Lincoln, UK, dogs can read and match their owners’ emotions.
2. Environmental Changes
Dogs take time to adjust to changes in their environment. Your pet thrives on routine and any major disruption to their schedule will make them feel uncertain and unsafe.
Common environmental changes that can lead to canine depression include:
- Moving to a new home
- An additional pet or baby in the household
- Renovations in your home that affect your pet
- Change in diet
- Change in a dog’s exercise, feeding, or sleeping routine
- Severe weather
If your dog spends most of her time doing nothing, she may be bored and this severe boredom can lead to depression.
High-energy dog breeds such as Labrador Retrievers, Border Collies, Weimaraners, and some crossbreeds need mental and physical stimulation to function.
Another common cause of dog depression is fear and anxiety.
For instance, if your dog has a fear of car rides or being left alone, they will always show signs of anxiety every time you’re going for a ride or leaving for work.
If your pet is in pain due to an injury, illness, or trauma they may exhibit signs of depression.
This is why it’s important to visit a vet immediately if you notice signs of depression in your pet. A vet will examine your pet and in case of an illness, they’ll recommend the right treatment.
Physical and emotional neglect can cause long term stress and depression in dogs.
Abused dogs will often show fear, aggression, cowering, and anxiety. If your pet was neglected as a puppy, they will often suffer from separation anxiety.
Treatment for Canine Depression
The treatment for your pet’s depression will depend on the cause. For example, a pup whose depression stems from abuse will get better if you give them some extra TLC.
Similarly, a dog who is in pain will most likely recover from depression when the cause of the pain is treated.
If your pet’s depression persists even after they have recovered from pain or an illness, consult with a canine behaviourist to find the root cause of the depression.
Other changes that can result in a significant improvement in your depressed pup include:
If your pet is sad due to lack of mental and physical stimulation, then set up more play dates. You can take your active pet for longer walks or buy them toys to keep them mentally stimulated.
Reward your dog
Reward your pooch anytime they show improvement in their mood. Also, keep them busy with activities that they enjoy. For instance, if your dog is happier when you play catch with them, find time and play with them. Notably, don’t reward your dog when they’re sad as this will only encourage this behaviour.
Encourage them to eat
If your dog is not eating, try and make mealtimes fun by rewarding them every time they take some food. A protein deficiency could also cause depression in your dog. Make sure to feed them a low-carbohydrate, high-quality protein diet like those found in Timberwolf Organics. You can also exercise or take your pup for a walk just before mealtime to improve their appetite.
Get your dog another pet
If your dog’s depression stems from the loss of a companion, consider getting them another pet. You can also choose to socialise them with other animals if you feel it isn’t the right time to get them another companion.
Depending on the severity of your pet’s depression symptoms, your vet may prescribe anti-anxiety medication (NEVER self-dispense..ALWAYS follow your vet’s directions).
If you notice depression symptoms in your pup, it’s best that you find the underlying cause and treat it. If you aren’t sure of the cause, we advise that you talk to your vet as canine depression may sometimes be caused by a medical condition.