6 Common Dog Depression Symptoms & Treatment

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Has your dog not been acting less cheerful and energized than usual and spending most of the day napping around the house? If you’re worried about such behavior and trying to figure out if your dog is dealing with depression or not, you’ve come to the right place.

This article will discuss the most common dog depression symptoms along with their underlying causes, and provide instructions on how to help your pup recover.

Can Dogs Get Depressed?

Characterized by feelings of sadness, loss of interest, and fatigue, depression can affect even dogs, as sadness found in the core of depression is among the Eight Core Emotions (anger, sadness, fear, trust, disgust, surprise, anticipation, and joy) that dogs are said to experience. Although dogs don’t experience the same type of sadness as humans due to supposedly having the emotional capacity of a two-year-old, they can still suffer from depression and anxiety.

Pet owners need to be aware of and able to recognize the signs of depression in dogs so they can help their dog through the difficult period and make sure their pet bounces back more easily.

DID YOU KNOW: Many dog owners use CBD oil to relieve pain and ease seizures in their canines, as scientists argue it can be used to maintain proper dog health, so an additional step in helping your dog through depression can be learning which CBD oil best soothes your dog.

6 Dog Depression Symptoms

Depending on the cause, the symptoms of depression in dogs can vary. However, there are some common signs to look out for, including:

1. Decreased Appetite

A sudden loss of appetite in dogs can point to depression. Similar to humans, some dogs tend to eat less when depressed, while in others stress and depression manifest in the form of overeating.

The changes in the eating habits of your dog are physically noticeable as your dog either gains or lose weight over time. 

2. Unusual Barking

Depressed dogs may whine or bark more than usual, so you might notice your dog displaying an unfriendly attitude and barking excessively at other animals and humans.

3. More Aggressive Behavior Than Usual 

Aggression is not always caused by depression, as some dogs are naturally more aggressive than others. However, growing and atypical aggressive behaviors are apparent signs your dog is depressed.

Take your dog’s usual behavior into account and be on the lookout for destructive behaviors—some dogs suddenly start growling when you pet them, while others might go on a raid around the house destroying your things or furniture.

4. Sleeping More Than Usual

Depression can cause your dog to feel stressed and uneasy. However, while dogs experiencing high anxiety levels usually seem restless and whine, dogs going through separation anxiety or grief due to loss can sleep for hours on end and seem dopey.

5. Inappropriate Peeing/Pooping Indoors 

Inappropriate peeing and pooping in the house are also symptoms of dog depression.

Pets often urinate indoors as a result of separation anxiety, which is mainly considered a mild variant of depression. Aside from inappropriate urination and defecating in the house, separation anxiety can also cause destructive behaviors leading even to escape attempts.

6. Demanding More Affection

Not getting enough attention and affection from the owner can cause the dog to feel depressed. Dogs are prone to developing separation anxiety, which can lead to an increased need for affection when the owner is around.

What Can Cause Dogs’ Depression?

Most of us who’ve seen the expression on the faces of canines in animal shelters have an idea of what severe depression looks like, but not all cases are as extreme. Seeing your dog unhappy will likely cause you to battle with thoughts such as: “Why is my dog depressed?” To help your dog overcome depression, you first need to understand what causes those feelings in your dog.

There are several different factors that can contribute to dog depression. Some common causes include:

1. Trauma (From Injury or Abuse)

Dogs that have experienced abuse often show mistrust and very little physical activity, and tend to withdraw from social interactions with both humans and animals. The abuse the dog has suffered usually has a strong impact on both its mental and physical health, often resulting in depression, as well as an inability to form a loving bond.

2. Chronic Pain or Illness

Chronic pain and illness are the most common physical symptoms of depression in dogs.

If your dog is in pain, it can be hard for them to enjoy anything else, which can lead to a downward spiral of depression that can be difficult to break out of. Thus, it’s important to consult a doctor to ensure that medical-related issues are not the reason your dog is depressed.

3. Isolation

Dogs are social animals, so it’s not surprising that loneliness can lead to depression. If your dog is left alone for long periods, it may start to feel isolated and down. Keep in mind that anxious dogs with a fear of loud noises are prone to isolation, which can ultimately lead to depression.

4. Environmental Changes

Dogs are creatures of habit, so any change in their routine can lead to stress and anxiety.

After asking yourself “Why is my dog depressed,” the first thing you must do is consider if there have been any major or minor environmental changes in their life. Some causes of depression such as moving house or bringing a new pet into the home are obvious, while more subtle ones like a stay-at-home owner taking up a job might be more difficult to identify.

5. Lack of Physical or Mental Stimulation

Dogs can also suffer from depression if they’re not getting enough exercise. A dog who is cooped up all day with nothing to do is more likely to become depressed than a dog who gets plenty of opportunities to run and play, so keep in mind that regular exercise and being active maintain their proper physical and mental health.

6. Possible Postpartum Depression 

Postpartum depression in dogs is displayed either right away or after a week or two. Female dogs can go through a period of depression after giving birth usually as a result of hormone level changes, as progesterone and prolactin are hormones that gradually increase during the dog’s pregnancy, but drop as soon as your pet gives birth. This sudden drop has a negative effect on dopamine levels, setting off depression.

Postpartum depression can also be caused by repressed anxiety that is manifesting after giving birth, or it can be triggered by current stress.

7. Boredom 

The first question that comes to mind to many concerned owners is: “Is my dog bored or depressed?” The truth is, that boredom can lead to depression. Just like people, dogs get bored if they don’t have enough to do, which may cause them to feel restless and depressed.

If your dog spends most of the day hanging around the house waiting for the owner to get back and lacks dynamics in their life, they can be prone to sadness and depression and might develop destructive behaviors.

8. Poor Nutrition 

Although often disregarded, poor nutrition could be what stands behind the symptoms of dog depression.  A healthy diet is important for all dogs, but especially those prone to depression, since malnutrition can be the cause of your dog’s lethargic behavior and depressive episodes. If your dog isn’t getting the nutrients he needs, it can lead to feelings of fatigue and low mood.

Many newbie owners are often puzzled by the rules of dog nutrition and uncertain if they’re making the right choices, but even experienced dog owners are taken by surprise when faced with difficult questions such as “Is it safe for your dog to eat shrimp?”

9. Grief

Grief is likely one of the most common symptoms of depression in dogs. Losing a human they shared a deep connection with brings both a sense of loss and stress to the dog, as dogs are known to pick up the emotions within the family environment. With grief-related depression, veterinarians say it’s best to bring the pet to the clinic sooner rather than later.

DID YOU KNOW: Introducing new chewing toys that will stimulate your furry friend can help relieve anxiety and depression. If you need a more durable toy, you can choose some of the best dog toys for persistent chewers.

Key Takeaways

Pet owners need to be aware of and able to recognize the signs of depression in dogs so they can help their dog through the difficult period.
Dogs are social animals, so spending time with them can be an important part of their treatment.
Dogs need regular exercise, as being active helps them maintain proper physical and mental health.
Dogs who have suffered trauma or injury are prone to mistrust and depression. 
Some severe forms of dog depression require medication.

How to Treat Depression in Dogs?

If you think your dog may be depressed, the first step is to talk to your veterinarian so they can rule out any medical causes and make sure your dog is healthy. Having completed this step and noted all their symptoms, you can move on to learning how to cure depression in dogs.

Read on to find out what you can do to help your dog through their depression.

  • Engagement With Another Dog

Dogs are social animals, so spending time with them can be an important part of their treatment. If you can’t be with your dog all the time, consider hiring a dog walker or taking him to doggy daycare. Make sure to provide your dog with opportunities to interact with other canines, and you can even consider bringing another pup into the family.

This is usually done when the dog’s depression is caused by grief over a pet friend or companion, but before doing so consider both your dog’s and your own needs.

  • Stimulation of Their Mental and Physical Activities

Low physical activity is one of the earliest signs your dog is depressed.

Exercise is important for all dogs, but it’s especially helpful for those who are depressed. Getting your dog out for a walk or a run can help improve their mood, giving them a chance to release some of that pent-up energy. In addition to exercise, dogs need mental stimulation.

Playing games such as fetch or tug-of-war can help your dog stay engaged, and can be a great way to bond with them.

  • Proper and Regular Diet

As already mentioned, a healthy diet is important for all dogs, but especially those prone to depression, which is why it’s important for pet owners to learn how to treat depression in dogs with a bad diet. Make sure your dog is getting the nutrients he needs and talk to your veterinarian about any necessary dietary changes.

There are a number of supplements for dogs dealing with depression that include ingredients like omega fatty acids, vitamins, and herbs. Talk to your veterinarian about which supplements might be right for your dog.

  • Spending More Time With Your Dog

By spending some extra time with your dog and readjusting your behavior according to their needs, you can strengthen your bond with your dog and help them overcome depression. If you’re wondering “Is my dog depressed” because of the same old playing routine, take that as a sign and introduce a refreshing change by learning new tricks or working on obedience training to stimulate your dog’s mind while spending more time with your pet.

  • Medication for Dog Depression

When there’s no other way how to cure depression in dogs, vets prescribe medication.

Antidepressants can be helpful for some dogs, but they should always be used under the guidance of a veterinarian. Generally, the same antidepressants are used both for dogs and humans, but unlike humans, dogs can take the drugs for no more than a year.

Conclusion

Although to many owners it may seem like there’s not much they can do to help their dog get through depression, there are plenty of ways to assist them. However, every pet owner should take the time and learn what are the signs of depression in dogs to be able to recognize them if needed.

Overall, we may conclude that the best way to avoid depression in most cases is to actively engage in your dog’s life.

FAQ

Can dogs get depressed when another dog dies?

Dogs mourn when faced with the loss of a furry companion, especially if the deceased dog was an in-house playmate they spent time with.

Can dogs get depressed when the owner leaves?

Dogs can experience a sense of great loss if abandoned by their owner, although they also might fall into depression when one of the children moves out of the house.

How to tell if my dog is depressed?

If you’re wondering whether your dog is going through depression, the best thing to do is be on the lookout for dog depression symptoms such as a loss of appetite, increased needs for sleep and affection, unusual barking, and other random changes in behavior.

ABOUT AUTHOR

When she couldn’t decide between being a nurse, a psychotherapist, and a financial genius, Ofelia decided to do all three. Her interests run far and wide, and she loves researching about everything you get to read on our website. Credit cards or top-notch software, she’s here to tell it all like it is.

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